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Northern Ireland teacher unions set to meet bosses over pay impasse

By Rebecca Black

Teaching unions are to sit down with employers next week as a stormy stand-off over salary levels continues. It will be just the second time the two sides have met since last October when the unions walked out of pay negotiations which had gone on for 13 months.

The Northern Ireland Teachers Council (NITC) met employers on December 20, where preliminary discussions for this month were agreed.

NITC is the body that represents all five teaching unions here — ATL, INTO, NAHT, NASUWT and UTU.

The discussions will take place on January 12.

Avril Hall Callaghan from  UTU said the meeting will examine whether formal negotiations  between staff and employers can restart.

The Education Authority offered a 0% pay increase for 2015/16 and 1% for 2016/17 following negotiations that lasted over a year. The unions had initially sought a higher increase for teachers.

They walked out of the talks last October saying that salaries for teachers here were falling behind their counterparts in England and Wales.

Since then members of the biggest union — NASUWT — staged strikes in the Belfast and Newtownabbey areas, causing confusion and the closure of some schools.

NASUWT has threatened further walkouts in other areas of Northern Ireland on dates that have yet to be announced.

INTO members have also voted to strike, while ATL and UTU members voted for industrial action short of walkouts.

It means teachers and UTU associate inspectors will not be co-operating with school inspections from January 12.

“This action will not impact on children as teachers will continue to provide a full service for them,” Ms Hall Callaghan said.

“We chose to take action on inspections as we believe the inordinate workload they create results in minimal outcome.” She added: “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.

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

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