Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne has urged the ASTI leadership and the Department of Education and Skills to continue to engage in talks to avoid prolonged industrial action from September. Deputy Byrne says every effort must be made to prevent any action which would adversely affect students.

Responding to today’s reports that the ASTI is preparing to hold ballots for industrial action next month, Deputy Byrne commented, “I urge all parties to reconsider before proposing any industrial action. A prolonged industrial dispute is not in anybody’s interest, and will certainly not be in the best interests of teachers.

“Resolving this dispute requires extensive engagement and all parties must enter into renewed partnership talks to avert school closures in September. I urge the ASTI to reconsider entering the Lansdowne Road Agreement, which will effectively give a €2,000 pay increase to teachers over the coming years.

“Unions that have entered the Lansdowne Road Agreement have room to manoeuvre on a number of issues, including pay equality for newly qualified teachers.

“I have always said that the situation whereby new entrants to the teaching profession do not receive the same allowances as their longer serving colleagues cannot be justified. It is corrosive to morale in schools.

“This is an issue which requires urgent and extensive engagement. Unequal pay for new teachers is unfair and discourages talented individuals from entering the profession.

“The commitment to examine pay levels across the public service, including entry levels of pay and allowances, was a key demand of Fianna Fáil in our discussions on an arrangement to facilitate a minority Government. We will ensure that this commitment is acted upon.

“Current talks between the Department of Education and unions regarding pay equality for new entrants must show substantial progress by the beginning of the new school term. I believe that progress on this key issue would act as a catalyst to resolving other industrial relations issues within the education system,” concluded Deputy Byrne.