Ireland's three main teacher unions have said they believe that pay inequality in the sector is causing what they call the current "crisis" in teacher recruitment and retention. 

In a joint statement the presidents of the TUI, the INTO, and the ASTI have called for an acceleration of the process of pay restoration for teachers employed since 2011.

The statement coincides with a submission made today by the three unions to the Public Service Pay Commission.

They say the emerging crisis has seen a sharp fall in applications to teacher education courses, as well as an increase in emigration among recently qualified teachers, and has led to increasing difficulties in filling posts and employing substitute teachers.

In their submission, the unions point out that last year 3,600 people with no qualifications worked in primary classrooms for 32,000 substitute days, and that no substitutes were claimed by schools for nearly 27,000 days during the first part of the year.

They say the situation has deteriorated further since last September.

Referring to post-primary level, the submission describes a "collapse" in the number of applications for postgraduate qualifications that are required of teachers in the sector. 

In recent weeks, the Minister for Education has outlined a number of measures his department is examining in order to address the current teacher shortage.

These include the possibility of offering free places on postgraduate teacher training courses to homemakers who have qualifications in STEM and other subject areas, such as modern languages, where there is currently a particular shortage.

In the joint statement, issued this evening, Irish National Teachers' Organisation President John Boyle said the erosion of young teachers’ morale and the growth of discontent were real life impacts of what he called indefensible and discriminatory pay rates. 

Teachers' Union of Ireland President Joanne Irwin said graduates who might once have considered teaching were now looking at other employments where they were guaranteed better remuneration.

President of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland, Ger Curtin said until recently Ireland was one of a handful of countries in the OECD which did not face recruitment and retention problems.

He said that that situation had now changed and that pay inequality was at the heart of the issue.