Northern Ireland

Teaching unions warn ‘no reprieve’ on planned strike action unless pay claim is resolved

Teachers at schools took part in a half-day strike in February, while there was a full day of strike action in schools and further education colleges in April (PA)
Teachers are set to take part in a full day of strike action on January 18. PICTURE by PA

Teaching unions in Northern Ireland have warned there will be “no reprieve” on their planned strike action unless their pay claim is resolved.

It comes as the five main teaching unions are today lodging with the employers their formal intention to strike on January 18.

The Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council, which represents the five unions, last month announced that teachers would take to the picket lines following a previous half-day strike on November 29.

Jacquie White, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, said on Monday that in the absence of any resolution, they have been " left with no option”.

“Before Christmas we had already mooted this but unfortunately during the interim there has been no last minute resolution to our pay and conditions dispute,” she said.

“UTU, alongside the four other main teaching unions in Northern Ireland, has therefore been left with no option but to formally inform our employers of our decision.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that each and every member feels cornered into this action given that our long-running pay claim began in 2020.

“Alternative lesser actions have unfortunately made no difference in securing Northern Ireland teachers parity with their counterparts elsewhere in GB.”

Jacquie White, UTU general secretary. Picture by Kevin Cooper
Jacquie White, UTU general secretary. Picture by Kevin Cooper

Ms White added that the teaching profession is “haemorrhaging its best people and failing to attract the candidates, which until now have given Northern Ireland such an edge when it comes to our pupil outcomes”.

“For too long now we, as teachers, have been papering over the cracks and doing our very best to make a broken system work,” she said.

“However, the savage nature of cuts in recent times is having an undeniable ripple effect that goes a long way beyond the classroom.”

Ms White added that the planned industrial action is “about advocating for a better future for our children who are being denied essential services”.

“We do not want to be in this position but we intend to fulfil the commitment we made before Christmas and engage in further action until this issue is resolved,” she said.

“We would call on the Department of Education, local politicians and the Secretary of State to deliver a mechanism for resolution.”

Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said the “pay situation for teachers and lecturers in Northern Ireland is now desperate”.

“Teachers have not had a pay increase for three years while FE lecturer pay is even worse again,” he said.

“Our members shouldn’t be in the position where they must take industrial action to get the same basic rates of pay as colleagues elsewhere in the UK.”

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official NI, added: “Public sector workers are fed up with being used as pawns in a political game by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and are demanding that they are paid the same as any other teacher in the UK.

Justin McCamphill said the pay gap between teachers in NI and the rest of the UK has grown (Liam McBurney/PA)
Justin McCamphill from the NASUWT. PICTURE by Liam McBurney/PA

“A Northern Ireland teacher is not worth less than an English or Scottish teacher.

“Those in Northern Ireland who are blocking the restoration of the Executive need to wake up to the calls of public sector workers who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Issues affecting Northern Ireland from the outworking of the Protocol must be dealt with within the agreed structures of government.”

Dr Mark Browne, the Department of Education’s permanent secretary, previously said that the trade unions are “fully aware” a pay offer “can only be made if it is affordable within the allocated budget”.

“The department fully understands the frustration of teachers and school leaders over the ongoing absence of a pay offer,” he said.