Inflation and the rising cost of living is set to dominate the agenda at this year's teacher trade union conferences, with calls for pay increases to address the deficit set to go before delegates at all three conferences this week.

Second level teachers union the ASTI will tomorrow debate a proposal to ballot for industrial action on a range of pay related issues including a call for a pay rise for all teachers to counter cost of living increases.

A second ASTI motion demands that cost of living increases in line with inflation be included in any successor to the Building Momentum public service pay deal.

On Wednesday, TUI delegates in Wexford will debate a resolution on the cost of living and price increases which seeks immediate renegotiation of Building Momentum and also calls for a ballot on a campaign of industrial action if necessary to force such a renegotiation.

An emergency INTO motion on the issue stops short however of calling for a ballot for industrial action.

That motion looks for "focussed and timebound engagement between public service unions and the government in order to agree measures to address the unexpected increase in living costs".

Speaking at the INTO annual congress in Killarney today, president Joe McKeon told teachers that industrial harmony will be threatened if the impact of inflation is not addressed by Government.

Opening the union's congress, Mr McKeown said recent increase in inflation had led to a serious erosion of the standard of living of teachers that needs to be addressed "urgently".

He warned that teachers would stand together to pursue proper pay increases and to ensure that INTO members were not taken for granted.

Tomorrow morning, union delegates will debate a motion noting, that while the annual rate of inflation rose to 5.3% last year, pay increases received by teachers amounted to just 1%.

The resolution instructs the union to immediately seek an increase in pay to compensate members for the cost-of-living increases which have occurred during the lifetime of the current pay deal.

School leadership posts

Mr McKeown announced that the union had in recent days reached agreement to restore 1,400 posts of responsibility to primary schools.

Primary schools lost more than 5,000 'posts of responsibility' after a moratorium was imposed in 2009 as part of austerity measures.

Schools complained that the loss made it far harder for them to meet curricular and regulatory challenges, and teachers also lost out of opportunities for career progression.

Mr McKeown said that Covid-19 had placed incredible demands on school leaders, and the union would not rest until all posts of responsibility were restored.

Mr McKeown told delegates that pay increases alone, however, would not address the crisis in housing which means that no recently qualified teacher can reasonably expect to be able to afford to buy a house in most parts of the country. He said that for many, even rented accommodation is out of reach.

The INTO president warned that unless this critical issue is addressed the country would see another exodus of young and talented teachers.


Calling for the retention of supports provided to schools to help support pupils during the pandemic, delegates heard that the effects of Covid on children’s educational development will be felt for many years to come, and that addressing those issues will require sustained financial support, additional staffing, and a "re-calibration of expectations".

And the Government was strongly criticised for the way in which pregnant teachers were treated over the past two years, with Mr McKeown saying it was "beyond belief" that pregnant teachers were forced to attend for work last autumn at a time when the government was unable to offer vaccine protection.

Mr McKeown said this displayed a "reckless disregard" for their physical and mental health.

Senior cycle

Proposals for senior cycle reform, which would see teachers assessing their own students as part of Leaving Certificate assessment, also promises to be the subject of debate at the two second level teacher union conferences.

Minister for Education Norma Foley is due to address delegates at all three events.

She will begin by speaking to INTO delegates in Killarney tomorrow morning, before travelling on to ASTI Convention in Cork tomorrow evening, and finally addressing TUI delegates on Wednesday.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris will also address TUI delegates in Wexford tomorrow afternoon.

'Creaking at the seams'

The General Secretary of the INTO has said that the 2019 Public Service Agreement is "creaking at the seams" as inflation continues to increase and the cost of living spirals.

Speaking to RTÉ's Drivetime, John Boyle said that the organisation is "very keen" to see that the current agreement is "stabilised", adding that in the last two years teachers got a 2% increase, 1% each year.

"The next one isn’t due until October, which is the second 1% and really the agreement is beginning to creak at the seams.

"I think all the public service unions have called this out. At the time the Public Service Agreement was negotiated we were six or seven months into the Covid pandemic. A modest increase of 1% was what we settled for.

"Nobody negotiating in December 2019 expected that inflation was going to peak at 8.5% later this year. When you reflect back on last year, inflation outstripped the agreement nearly three times," Mr Boyle said.

"We’re going into negotiations with the Department (of Public Expenditure and Reform) on this agreement, for all public servants which are 380,000 workers. Like any workers, they are finding it difficult to put petrol or diesel into the car or pay for their rent.

"I think the Government has already signalled that they know there’s pressure on the agreement and we certainty feel that the 1% (increase) in October is going to have to be looked at and we want to negotiate another agreement after that. The Irish economy has remained resilient," he added.

War in Ukraine

Meanwhile the annual conference will also hear an emergency motion calling for additional supports for schools who are taking in Ukrainian children who have come to Ireland as refugees.

"It’s calling for the supports that these children will need. We have to be fair and we have had regular meetings with the minister every Wednesday. A lot of supports have been put in already.

"Two-hundred-and-sixty-two primary schools got extra language teaching hours for these children but obviously we’re really worried about the next group of children arriving. They may well have seen more trauma than the earlier arrivals," Mr Boyle said.

"There will be a lot more children presenting for school the week after the Easter holidays. Even though we have the largest classes in Europe, no school is going to turn away a child fleeing from a war.

"We need supports to help them with that trauma, extra psychological supports and some counselling. We have to say that the department has stepped up to the plate to date but the challenge might be more for September. But we’re certainly up for that challenge because these children need to be looked after," he added.