INTO calls on Government to revive public sector pay talks as primary teachers set to be balloted for industrial action

The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) today decided to initiate a September ballot of all its members (ROI) for potential industrial action, unless the Government’s irresponsible procrastination on public-sector pay talks ends quickly with a respectable pay offer put on the table.

The decision was taken in solidarity with all workers across the public service who are battling accelerating inflation and steep increases in the cost of living, as are all Irish workers, while the Government has failed to engage in further talks with our representatives at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over the last eight weeks.

Following the decision, INTO President John Driscoll called on the Government to urgently return to negotiations with a respectable pay offer that unions could put to a ballot of their members.

As a member of the ICTU Public Services Committee, the INTO has supported efforts under the review clause of the Building Momentum agreement to secure a necessary pay uplift for public sector workers. This uplift is essential in light of skyrocketing inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.

The union expresses its profound disappointment that the WRC talks process has stalled for the last two months, despite frequent statements from leading Government figures on the need to provide a pay increase for hard-pressed public servants.

The union will be advocating that members respond positively, thereby mandating the union to utilise all options up to and including strike action in order to secure a fair pay rise.

The CEC was briefed in June on the mediocre offer of an additional 2½% proposed by Government for the whole of 2021 and 2022. The CEC fully supported the position of the ICTU Public Services Committee that such an offer would not provide sufficient protection for public sector workers, whose incomes have been decimated over the last eighteen months.

Noting that INTO members have only received a 1% increase in salary since the current agreement commenced in January 2021 – with Irish inflation rising by more than 10% in the same period – it will therefore be necessary for the union to begin the process of balloting our membership for industrial action, unless the government increases its offer significantly in short order.

Balloting for industrial action will be preceded by a two-week consultation process with members and a full ballot of all members will take place in  early September, should the Government fail in the meantime to make a meaningful offer in respect of pay.

Speaking following the decision taken today, INTO President John Driscoll said:

For five long months, soaring inflation has decimated workers’ take-home pay across the public and private sectors. Our members have waited patiently for their employer, the Irish Government, to take steps to address the enormous financial pressures they are facing. It beggars belief that – at a time when exchequer returns are in a broadly positive space – the Government is engaging in delay tactics, seemingly forgetting the trojan work of public servants during the recent pandemic.

Teachers will be concerned about the winter that lies ahead as schools across the country reopen for a new school term. Given the tokenistic offer made by Government last June, and their repeated failure to engage on the review of  the pay terms within the Building Momentum agreement since then, it is regrettably time for us to initiate a ballot of members to seek a mandate, up to and including industrial action.

This is never a decision a trade union takes lightly, and we are mindful of the disruption and distress industrial action can unfortunately cause members of the public we work with day in, day out. There is still time for Government to do the right thing and we call on them once again to return to the negotiation table with a respectable pay offer. This will ease the financial pressures being felt by public servants who are struggling to make ends meet.”