Second wave of teachers’ strike begins tomorrow

NASUWT is to take strike action in Londonderry, Strabane, Mid Ulster and Fermanagh and Omagh. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
NASUWT is to take strike action in Londonderry, Strabane, Mid Ulster and Fermanagh and Omagh. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

The largest teachers’ union in Northern Ireland will take strike action in schools across Londonderry, Strabane, Mid Ulster, Fermanagh and Omagh.

The action by NASUWT members is the second stage of a rolling programme of strike action across Northern Ireland which began on November 30 2016 with a day of strike action from teachers in Belfast and Newtownabbey.

The Education Authority, meanwhile, have described the further strike action as disappointing and frustrating following what they called “further constructive joint talks with teacher representatives.”

The teachers’ union, however, said the strike action will demonstrate teachers’ “anger” over pay.

A NASUWT spokesperson said: “Thousands of teachers will be taking part in the action to demonstrate their anger and frustration about the derisory pay offer from the Minister of Education of 0% for the 2015/2016 academic year.

“Teachers are also angered about the Minister and the Employer’s failure to tackle seriously the year-on-year pay cuts, excessive workload and widespread job insecurity teachers are facing.

“Since 2011, teachers have been subjected to a two-year pay freeze, two years of a 1% pay increase and a continuing pay freeze from 2015 onwards.

The cumulative effect of teachers’ pay freezes and pay restraint, against a background of high inflation, and pension and National Insurance increases from 2010 through to 2016, has left teachers the lowest paid teachers in the UK with a cumulative loss of just over £15,000.”

As part of the day of action, teachers will be gathering at a rally at St Columb’s Hall, in Londonderry at 11am.

The rally will be addressed by teachers and elected representatives of the NASUWT in Northern Ireland.

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.

“The Minister has been given the money to pay the minimum 1% award to teachers for 2015/16, instead teachers are being asked to bear the brunt of the failure by the Executive to properly ring-fence education from budget cuts.

“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.”

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, said: “No teacher takes strike action lightly and we regret the disruption the action will have on pupils and parents.

“Despite our attempts to resolve this dispute through negotiation, the attitude of the Minister has left us with no other option than to continue our programme of strike action.

“Teachers are angry, frustrated and determined to send a loud and clear message that says value us and the children we teach.”

Chairperson of Management Side representing the employers and the Department of Education, Education Authority Chief Executive Gavin Boyd said: “The employers held constructive talks with the teaching unions on 12th and 24th January.

“Both sides agreed to work together to produce an agreed agenda to provide the basis for intensive negotiations going forward. A further joint meeting to complete this work is scheduled for 1st February so the decision by NASUWT to continue with planned strike action regardless on 31st January, 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.

“We remain encouraged that further talks are scheduled for later this week and we are optimistic we can still work collaboratively with teacher representatives to establish an agreed agenda for negotiations. It is in this spirit, we urge the teaching unions to suspend all industrial action and to fully commit to negotiations as agreed.”