Secondary teachers asked to volunteer for overtime to cover substitute shortages

Secondary school teachers are being asked to volunteer for overtime to help alleviate the shortage of substitutes, which is due Covid-19-related absences.

Teachers working overtime will be paid to work above the standard contract of 22 hours a week, for a rate based on their personal salary, including allowances, the Department of Education on Monday said. While teachers currently have 22 hours of class contact, this may rise to 35 hours.

However, teachers unions have criticised the new measure. The Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) said it was “strongly critical” of the temporary arrangement.

The ASTI calculated that a typical teacher on the post-2010 pay scale will earn approximately 20 per cent less under the scheme than those on the pre-2011 pay scale.

The Minister had “wasted an opportunity to equalise payments across the two pay scales, break with this invidious practice and consign it to history,” the ASTI said in a statement.

ASTI president Eamon Dennehy said it was “deeply regrettable” that the Minister had “absolute insistence on persisting with the divisive arrangements in schools that unequal pay constitutes.”

“We are positively disposed to any measures that relieve pressure in schools during this pandemic. However, it beggars belief that the Minister seeks to persist with continuing discrimination against the most vulnerable members of the teaching profession,” he said.

New measures

Pay for overtime is among a range of new measures announced by the Department of Education to alleviate the shortage of substitutes, which includes increased involvement of student teachers, removal of pension related barriers for retired teachers, and the release of teachers who are on secondment to Department of Education support services.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) welcomed such new measures but also described the different overtime rate for those appointed from 2011 onwards as “deeply disappointing”.

Separately, the TUI heard “anecdotally” from its members that there were delays in accessing PCR tests around the country which were exacerbating current difficulties in schools.

“It would be remiss of us not to highlight that there was already a teacher recruitment and retention crisis before schools ever had to deal with the additional challenges of Covid-19,” TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie said.

The crisis could be “traced back to imposition by Government of the two-tier system of pay discrimination on those employed from 2011 onwards,” he said.

Teacher recruitment and retention problems would “continue at second level until this is resolved.”

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