Ulster Teachers’ Union vote for industrial action short of a strike

UTU General Secretary Avril Hall Callaghan
UTU General Secretary Avril Hall Callaghan

Thousands of Northern Ireland teachers have voted to increase their industrial action this year in protest at funding cuts to classrooms and salaries.

In their latest ballot, the 6,500-strong Ulster Teachers’ Union voted not to strike but to take industrial action ‘short of strike’.

This means teachers and UTU associate inspectors will no longer be co-operating with school inspections from January 12, 2017.

“This action will not impact on children as teachers will continue to provide a full service for them,” said Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the union. “We chose to take action on inspections as we believe the inordinate workload they create results in minimal outcome.

“Sadly members feel they have no alternative but to step up their industrial action in a bid to highlight their strength of feeling about the current crisis in our education system.”

She continued: “Seldom have I seen such strength of feeling, but it’s galvanised this time by teachers’ fears over what they see as the marching erosion of resources from classrooms which is potentially leaving exposed our most vulnerable children.

“It is imperative that we get that message across, not just to the Minister, but to parents and the wider community which is why we’ve deemed it necessary to step up our industrial action.

“Unlike the employers, parents know and largely appreciate the dedication of their children’s teachers but there’s a sense that ‘it’ll all be ok in the end’. But this cannot end well and parents need to know.

“Unless something is done to address teachers’ plummeting morale over pay and to address the future funding issues to allow schools to carry on providing the education our children deserve, the situation will remain unresolved.

“Parents will appreciate that action comes as a very last resort and it’s something we as a profession are loathe to do. However, having tried to appeal to the employers via other routes and been treated with contempt we feel we have no other option.

“For teachers to be forced to take this step is a shameful reflection on the powers that be.

“Teachers feel rightly incensed that despite the fact they have kept schools running as usual, even with reduced teaching and support staff in many cases, this has not been appreciated by the Minister.

“Teachers, who have seen the value of their take home pay reduced by at least 15% since 2010/11, are being treated in this dismissive fashion. They are justifiably feeling exploited and are telling us that this attitude has been the final straw.

“We want the general public to know that the whole education service is at breaking point – for instance, support for pupils who need specialist services has been severely reduced, there is a quota system for referrals for special needs help and the Education Authority is trying to cut down on special needs nursery places.

“The Minister needs to take teachers seriously – they are slow to anger but he needs to realise that it is teachers that keep education deliverable. If they are no longer prepared to ‘go the extra mile’ then the whole system will fall down around him.

“We hope NITC’s preliminary meeting with employers on January 12, will go some way towards plotting a path through the present impasse.”