Cost-of-living crisis: Teachers and healthcare workers in call for better pay

Health workers across Northern Ireland are to take part in a series of protests over low pay on Friday, as NHS workers across the UK demand pay to keep pace with soaring inflation.

Unison members are calling for action on healthcare workers’ pay
Unison members are calling for action on healthcare workers’ pay

Members of the trade union Unison are to take part in protests at hospitals across the Province, with demonstrations planned at Altnagelvin, Antrim and other sites.

Tensions over pay amid the cost-of-living crisis have also come to the fore with several teaching unions in Northern Ireland now combining to call for political backing in their negotiations.

Teaching unions rejected a two-year pay offer worth around 3.2% over two years, with unions describing the offer as “insulting” when set against the rate of inflation.

On Thursday, the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU), the National Association of Schoolmasters and Women Teachers (NASUWT), the National Education Union (NEU) and National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) launched a joint campaign through the Northern Ireland Teachers Council on pay.

The unions are calling for teachers’ pay to be made an election issue.

Jacquie White, general secretary of the UTU said: “Teachers deserve a pay offer which recognises their value to society and acknowledges the contribution they have made in recent years to keep our ailing education system functioning in the face of a pandemic and continued underfunding. The offer we received was not that.”

Mark Langhammer, the senior regional official of the NEU, added: “What we need is for our politicians to take this issue seriously and recognise that teachers are essential workers who are key to the future well being of not only our society but our economy. Making them a pay offer which in effect amounts to a pay cut is a recipe for trouble.”

The teachers’ council is to hold a series of public meetings across Northern Ireland to raise concerns.

Unison, meanwhile, is also highlighting rising fuel costs along with pay for those who deliver care in the community.

Unison Newry and Mourne branch secretary, Catherine Farrell, explained: “Inflation is at record levels and the cost of living is continuing to rise steeply, putting our members under increasing pressure to put food on the table, heat their homes and put fuel in their cars.

“For our domiciliary care members and community nurses, they can no longer afford to put petrol or diesel in their cars to enable them to visit and deliver care to their clients in the community. Yet they continue to deliver this vital care.”

The union’s chief negotiator, Anne Speed, said: “Unison members right across Northern Ireland are delivering a clear message today that it’s time that government put pay right for hard-working health and social care staff.

“More and more health and social care workers are seriously questioning their futures within the NHS. The proposal by the UK government of a 3% rise in pay, well below the rate of inflation, is completely inadequate to deal with these challenges.”

She added: “Government at Westminster needs to move swiftly to deliver an inflation-busting pay award that focuses on retaining staff.”