Schools face disruption as education workers begin strike action

Some schools in Northern Ireland will face disruption over the coming days, as education workers begin a planned two-week strike.

It is the latest walk-out by education staff following similar action in March, which comes as part of an ongoing row over pay.

A special school in Belfast has already said that pupils will be forced to remain at home for the duration of the strike action by Unite workers.

Workers are striking as part of a dispute over a local government pay offer of 1.75%, which Unite has branded a “real terms pay cut” amid the rising cost of living and surging inflation.

Marie Spence (seventh from right), representative for UNITE Union in the Education Authority, standing with members on strike at Glenveagh School, Belfast.

Unite is among the largest public sector trade unions.

Members of the trade union working for local councils in Northern Ireland began a two-week strike on Monday, causing disruption to services including public toilets and the closure of some playgrounds.

Unite has said that staff working for the Education Authority in cleaning, catering and classroom assistant roles, as well as in providing school transport, were facing “poverty pay”.

But the strike action is likely to impact many schools across Northern Ireland, with Glenveagh School in Belfast confirming that the strike will keep pupils at home for an extended period.

Outside the school on Tuesday, Unite representative Marie Spence was on the picket line.

She told PA news agency classroom assistants and other workers were on strike “because of the ridiculous offer we have been made of 1.75%”.

“We need at least 10% here today to bring us in line with inflation”.

Ms Spence said that none of the workers wanted to be there.

“We go up and above our duties to look after the children. We don’t want to be on this picket line, we want to be back in our building with our children. And unfortunately, the EA (Education Authority) has us where we are today.”

She said that on current levels of pay, workers were “struggling day by day to get through life”.

“Our role is to care for these children and the teachers’ role is to educate them.

“We go up and above these roles and we treat them like we brought them into the world and we’re rearing them. They are our children and we want what is best for them.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is no pay offer – it is a pay cut at a time of rising living costs.

“It is totally unjustifiable and despite the Education Authority’s claims to the contrary, it absolutely does have the power to give education workers an increase that betters the current 1.75%.

“It should act responsibly and do so.

“The employers need to get back to the table with an acceptable pay offer or strike action will continue because Unite is determined to end the poverty pay which has caused the staffing crisis gripping school services.”

The strike by Education Authority workers will last from Tuesday until May 1, with further strike action planned May 3 to May 8.