Teachers hold second day of strikers pay and conditions dispute

A NASUWT conference

A NASUWT conference

Dozens of schools in the west of Northern Ireland were forced to close or had classes disrupted after the third teacher strike in two months.

Members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) staged the one day walk-out in three council areas - Derry and Strabane; Mid-Ulster; and Fermanagh and Omagh.

It was the second strike by the NASUWT in the dispute over pay and conditions. The first on November 30 last year focused on schools in Belfast and Newtownabbey.

Members of another union - the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) - staged a half-day action between the NASUWT strikes.

Unions have rejected an offer that would have delivered a 1% pay rise for the current financial year, with pay rates for 2015/16 remaining frozen.

Stormont's outgoing Education Minister Peter Weir has claimed a bigger increase could only have been afforded by making redundancies.

A focal point of Tuesday's strike was a major rally inside St Columb's Hall in Londonderry.

Other teaching unions in Northern Ireland have opted not to strike but their members are engaging in action stopping short of a walk-out, such an non-engagement with inspections.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "It is with deep regret that we have been forced to continue with our rolling programme of strike action but this is entirely the responsibility of the Minister for Education who has refused to accept that his attacks on teachers' pay are damaging the sustainability and morale of the teaching profession.

"Teachers deserve pay and working conditions which enable them to provide the world-class education service that our children and young people are entitled to."

Mr Weir said: "I am disappointed that teachers are continuing to take part in strike action, which is not in the interests of pupils, schools or the teachers concerned.

"Strike action is futile, which only results in the loss of pay to the teachers concerned."

Management at the teaching employers' organisation, the Teachers' Negotiating Council, expressed disappointment.

Chair Gavin Boyd said constructive talks had taken place last week and more discussions were scheduled this week with the aim of producing an agenda to "provide the basis for intensive negotiations going forward".

He added: "A further joint meeting to complete this work is scheduled for February 1 so the decision by NASUWT to continue with planned strike action regardless on January 31, is extremely disappointing and frustrating.

"The NASUWT will achieve nothing by this action beyond the loss of a further day's pay for their teacher members and yet more disruption for schools, pupils and parents.

"These matters can only be resolved through dialogue. The employers are fully committed to engaging in intensive negotiations to address the issues connected with industrial action."