The country's largest teachers’ union, the INTO, has said it is confident that a pathway has been set to full pay equality for teachers employed post-2010, after an agreement on words was reached with the Government today.
In what the INTO is hailing as a significant breakthrough, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has issued a statement saying that it will give "full consideration" to "outstanding issues of concern" among "certain unions" in any future pay review mechanism or in the next round of pay talks.
The wording of the statement has been agreed with the public sector unions.
The DPER statement goes on to say that it recognises that "the positions of each of the parties concerned on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution".
The INTO says this is the first time that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has acknowledged that teachers have outstanding issues around pay.
The union says it is confident that the agreed statement will create a pathway for the achievement of pay equality for its members.
Teacher salaries were cut for new entrants eight years ago, and a range of allowances were also removed. Progress towards making up for the cuts has been made, but the country's three teacher unions say full pay equality remains to be achieved. Late last year, both INTO and ASTI members rejected Government proposals aimed at a partial restoration.
The INTO estimates that the 2010 cuts mean a teacher employed in 2011 will be down €19,000 over the course of their career, counting from today onwards. This figure does not include historic losses. The union says it is the cohort of teachers first employed between the years 2011 and 2014 who continue significantly behind in pay compared to others.
Outgoing INTO General Secretary Sheila Nunan said that "this will bring us over the finishing line".
Today's statement, she said, "finally sets a pathway towards ending pay inequality".
She said the unions had "a statement of intent by Government", which acknowledged "the need to find a resolution on pay equality and other outstanding pay issues by way of a pay review process or in the context of the next public sector pay talks".
Primary teacher delegates attending the INTO's annual congress in Galway were briefed on today's development this evening.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh will address INTO delegates tomorrow morning.
Second-level teacher unions, the ASTI and the TUI, begin their annual gatherings in Wexford and Killarney tomorrow.
There has been a cautious welcome from both the ASTI and the TUI to today's statement.
In a statement, the ASTI said it "has been to the forefront of the campaign for equal pay for post 2010 entrants to teaching. This included ASTI members taking industrial action in opposition to the injustice of unequal pay."
It said it would "engage fully with the parties" and would explore any avenue in order to finally bring an end to pay inequality for teachers.
The TUI said it would welcome any indication that there was an end in sight but that it would continue to highlight the damaging impact of the pay cuts.