Equal pay for equal work – really?

The slogan in use by the ASTI is “Equal pay for equal work.”

Yet we all know that teachers teach a variety of class sizes, of students with different abilities and challenges, in a variety of scholastic and social environments, and across a range of subjects. There are teachers in disadvantaged areas doing Trojan work in the most difficult of circumstances who are not paid as they should be compared to their colleagues in more comfortable surroundings. Teachers doing very different work, yet they are all being paid the same. That is not equal pay for equal work.

Experience should make a teacher better but it’s not guaranteed to do so; and surely talent, aptitude and flair must be factors too. The automatic assumption that someone with 10 years experience is better than someone with 5 years experience. That is not equal pay for equal work.
We all remember the names of the teachers who inspired us, who helped us be better at subjects we found hard and excel at those we were capable at, and if we remember their names at all, we shrug our eyes and roll our shoulders at those who went through the motions. This is true whether you’re 70 plus, 40 odd, just out of school or still in it. Yet the ones reading from the Cliff notes or their equivalent, or told you to read ahead in silence while they stepped out for a smoke or a chat were and are paid the same as the ones who follow you into the Pass class to encourage you back into Hons. cos they knew and said it before the class that you had the ability to master it, or who customises how they teach to suit the weaker and stronger students. That is not equal pay for equal work.

Benchmarking was supposed to eliminate differences between people doing the same type of work whether in the public or private sphere. In the private sector the more in demand and more rare your skills the higher your pay will be. Not in teaching. All teachers received the same increases from benchmarking regardless of what actual competition there was for their skills; whether they taught Irish or Maths, German or Geography. That is not equal pay for equal work.

This inequality exists because of a pay system based almost entirely on scales that give the most weight to what qualifications they had when starting out and how long they’ve been in the position. Nothing about the nuanced nature of the work being done this year compared to last. It is a system that suits a union leadership wedded to 19th century concepts of labour and collective thinking. That what matters least is what you as an individual contribute but rather what group you can be most easily fitted into.

For the ASTI it’s clear that the slogan “Equal pay for equal work” is superficial at best and misleading at worst. It ill serves the teachers who are working the hardest and doing the most to the benefit of the majority. We should pay brilliant teachers magnificently and the more moderate ones adequately, the less that moderate should be ushered into other professions. That would be unequal pay for unequalled work.

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