Teachers take to the picket lines as pay crisis deepens

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Teachers take to the picket lines as pay crisis deepens thumbnailTeaching staff from Holy Cross College, Strabane, pictured during a lunchtime picket outside the school. Also pictured far right is Seamus Hanna, northern chair of the Irish National Teachers' Association (INTO) union.

LOCAL teachers joined colleagues across the province yesterday (Tuesday) in staging a demonstration at their school gates as a row over a pay offer deepens.

Teachers from 60 primary schools and secondary schools across Northern Ireland stood on picket lines in protest at what the unions have branded as an 'insulting' offer.

Seven schools in Co Tyrone were involved in the action. Locally, staff from Holy Cross College, Strabane, braved the rain and formed a lunch time picket whilst teachers at local primary schools, including St Catherine's PS, St Mary's PS and Sion Mills PS, staged theirs yesterday afternoon at the end of the school day.

The action, which was supported by four teaching unions, comes after protracted talks over the last year with the Education Authority (EA) broke down in October.

Thirteen months of talks between the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland and the EA ended with the unions walking out over a one per cent pay rise offer for 2016-17 but no pay rise for last year.

Teachers' pay has been frozen since 2010 and teachers have lost approximately 15 per cent of their salaries in real terms - this is roughly the same as teachers working an additional six to eight weeks for free, it has been claimed.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), are fully supporting the teachers in a bid to shine light on what has been described as a "heightening crisis".


Union officials have also warned that it may escalate industrial action and strike if "Stormont does not put a value on education."

Education Minister, Peter Weir, said he was 'disappointed' by the action and pointed to the "tough economic" times.

"Teachers are essential to the Northern Ireland education system and of course I greatly value the hard work they do. However it is no secret that public expenditure is extremely tight, including in the education sector.

"Management side brought forward a package that was realistic and still allows teaching staff to progress along the pay scale, in addition to a cost of living increase. That offer was rejected outright by the unions as were, I understand, earlier and higher offers", he had said at the conclusion of last month's pay negotiations.

Speaking yesterday, Gerry Murphy, the northern secretary of INTO, said it's unfair that teachers in Northern Ireland are paid 16 per cent less than their UK counterparts and said the pay rise offer amounts to less than the price of a litre of milk per day.

"The government needs to take action in relation to teachers' pay because this is a crisis which is deepening. It's a postcode lottery for Northern Ireland teachers. To be paid 16 per cent less than their UK counterparts is more than disheartening," he said.

"The one per cent offer came from the same people who were handed money from Westminster for our teachers but then they handed it back. There's no logic in this. There is no pride in our teachers and no hope for the young generations coming up through the schools.

"I challenge all parents, across Northern Ireland, regardless of religion or race, school or community, to stand up and support the education of our children. Our children's education matters. Our teachers matter. Our schools matter."

The sentiments were echoed by Avril Hall-Callaghan, chairperson of UTU: "We are rightly proud of our educational standards in Northern Ireland. Teachers here deserve to be treated fairly in return. Teachers in Scotland did not have this kind of demoralising decision made by their political masters. The Scottish Parliament awarded them a 2.5 per cent staged pay deal last year. We have asked that the Minister consider a staged deal as a way forward in this dispute."



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