The pay gap between new teachers and more established colleagues has emerged as one of the most fiercely debated issues in the looming strike.
The ASTI insists that teachers who entered the profession during the crash lag far behind those who started just a few years earlier. Yet Minister for Education Richard Bruton insists there is “cash on the table” that will see the pay of new entrants rise by 15-22 per cent over the next two years or so.
So, who is right?
New teaching entrants were hit with a double whammy of a 10 per cent pay cut in 2011 and the abolition of qualification allowances a year later.
This pay gap, however, has narrowed significantly under recent agreements and a deal struck last month on restoring qualification allowances.
The deal on allowances will result in increases of up to €2,000 per year for new teachers at the start of their careers. A revised pay scale will also narrow the gap.
These gains, however, will only be available to members of the INTO and the TUI, which have signed up to the Lansdowne Road agreement.
The starting pay for new entrant members will increase by 15 per cent between September 2016 and January 1st, 2018, rising from €31,009 to €35,602.
And teachers recruited since September 2015 will see a 22 per cent increase in their pay between September 2016 and January 2018, rising from €31,009 to €37,723.
While it represents progress and a narrowing of the pay gap, it is not parity.
For example, those appointed after February 1st, 2012 do not receive higher rates based on additional qualifications.
Similarly, a 10 per cent cut to public sector pay, which affected those teachers who joined after 2011, has not yet been reversed.
Both the TUI and the INTO acknowledge their deal does not amount to full restoration, though they insist they are committed to full parity.
They point out, for example, that full restoration of the 10 per cent pay cut was not within the scope of its negotiations as it affects the entire public service.
Mr Bruton has said the pay gap between recently recruited teachers and others is about €1,800. The ASTI is demanding “equal pay for equal work” and a timetable of when this will occur.
The union’s withdrawal from Croke Park hours means it has – in the eyes of the Government – “repudiated” Lansdowne Road. This means their pay is frozen until 2018 and they lose a series of benefits and protections.
These include payment for supervision and substitution worth almost €800; alleviation of cuts for higher earners; and protection against compulsory redundancy.
The ASTI says that even if the union had signed up to Lansdowne Road, recently recruited teachers will face a pay gap.
Union president Ed Byrne has said that the pay gap for new teachers would be €2,775, significantly more than Mr Bruton’s estimate.