Northern Ireland schools strike by UNISON, UNITE the UNION, NIPSA and GMB - leading union says ony Chris Heaton-Harris can resolve dispute
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The action will cause huge disruption to parents as they scramble to find alternative child care arrangements.
Classroom assistants, drivers, catering staff, caretakers, cleaners, technicians and bus escorts are taking part in 24 hours of industrial action over pay and job grading.
UNISON said discussions on pay reform were promised in 2019 but the Covid pandemic stalled movement.
"Education workers understood that but efforts to get negotiations going have ground to a halt," the union said in a statement. "Members recognise there is some goodwill in the Education Authority to get this matter sorted. But the EA continue to tell us there is no agreed funding to support negotiations. The Department of Education have been sitting on the fence. Where is their voice in support of this just cause?
"The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, now responsible for the Education budget, should be told in no uncertain terms that asking workers to wait until an Executive and the Assembly returns is just not good enough."
In a statement, the GMB said at least 2,500 school staff across 1,800 Northern Ireland schools will walk out today in the biggest strike the Education Authority has seen for years.
Alan Perry, GMB Senior Organiser, said: “Enough is enough - GMB members are among the lowest paid across the education sector.
“Given the current cost of living crisis, they just can't cope anymore. This is just the start. There will be strikes across the authority until our members’ concerns and right to fair pay are addressed.”
The details of action by the four unions are as follows;-
• UNISON - full day strike action on Thursday, 16 November 2023.
• Unite the Union – two-day strike action commencing at 00.01 hours on Wednesday, 15 November 2023 and continuing up to Thursday, 16 November 2023 at 23.59 hours.
• NIPSA - a two-hour stoppage strike action commencing from their members’ normal start time on Thursday, 16 November 2023.
• GMB – full day strike action on Thursday, 16 November 2023 from 12.01 am until 11.59 pm.
UNISON, UNITE the UNION, NIPSA and GMB members will revert to continuous action short of strike action on Friday, 17 November 2023.
NIPSA said their members involved in the action also work in support services and Education Authority headquarters.
They described the action as being around four points: pay and grading review, job evaluation, pay differentials, and education cuts.
They said their members have been engaged in action short of strike action since November 6, after an “overwhelming ballot endorsed the plan”.
The strike action on Thursday has been described as the first escalation of the action.
Earlier this week DUP MP Carla Lockhart said Chris Heaton-Harris’ ongoing denial that he has the power to intervene is "verging on the ridiculous now when he has stepped into other aspects of education provision here".
Department of Education permanent secretary Dr Mark Browne said on Friday urged unions to reconsider a pay award which he said was agreed on 1 November, for 2023-24.