Teachers’ school gate protest at ‘insulting’ pay offer

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers Union, has not ruled out strike action
Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers Union, has not ruled out strike action

Northern Ireland teachers are to mount school gate pickets in response to their employer’s latest pay offer, which unions have branded “an insult”.

Teaching unions recently rejected a pay deal following months of negotiations, which saw employers offer no rise for last year and a rise of 1% for 2016-17.

The unions say salaries for teachers in NI are falling behind their counterparts in England and Wales.

And in a joint statement, the Ulster Teachers’ Union and their colleagues in the INTO – Ireland’s largest teaching union – have not ruled out strike action.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the UTU and salaries spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Teachers Council, said unions were being forced to make a “very public protest” on Tuesday, November 8 in a bid to raise awareness about the crisis.

The UTU clarified that, in order to avoid disruption to pupils, the upcoming protest would take place at the end of the school day in primary schools, and at lunch time in post-primary schools.

Ms Hall Callaghan added: “The employers have been taking for granted teacher goodwill and teachers have had enough.

“Picketing their school gates, raising the issue directly with parents, is a necessary first step to inform them of the crisis unfolding over teachers’ pay and to ask them to support teachers by lobbying their MLAs on the issue.

“Teachers have been extremely patient in accepting below-inflation increases for five years but the failure to award a cost of living rise at all for 2015/16 has been the straw to break the camel’s back and teachers are quite rightly incensed at what they believe to be the exploitation of their goodwill to date.

“The minister needs to listen to us and appreciate the depth of feeling within the profession. Failure to do so will inevitably lead to a worsening of this crisis.”

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “Teachers’ terms and conditions, including pay, is negotiated through the forum of the Teachers’ Negotiating Committee, at which I am represented. It would therefore not be appropriate for the department to provide comment.”