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Teachers' pay claims are unrealistic: Education Minister Peter Weir

By David Young, PA

Published 23/11/2016

Education Minister Peter Weir
Education Minister Peter Weir

The Education Minister has urged teachers’ unions to live in the “real world” as he described some of their pay demands as “fantasy figures”.

Peter Weir was answering an urgent oral question tabled in the Assembly on next week’s proposed strike by members of the NASUWT union.

Other unions are taking industrial action short of a walkout. They have rejected an offer of a 1% pay rise this year.

Mr Weir told MLAs a bigger increase in 2016/17 could only be afforded by making redundancies.

He said he was prepared to discuss “realistic” pay proposals for 2017/18 onward, but claimed many of the figures suggested by the unions failed to acknowledge the pressure on expenditure across the public sector in Northern Ireland.

“There is no doubt that all of us, I think, would like to see a greater degree of public sector pay for a range of workers, but we are in tight financial circumstances,” he said.

The DUP minister said one union had called for a 13% pay increase. “Those are just not realistic figures on that basis, and all of us have got to, quite frankly, live in the real world,” he added.

“Now, I think there’s got to be discussions on how we can best move forward, but if there are fantasy figures getting produced in terms of what should happen in terms of pay, there’s got to be a realisation this can only be paid for out of the budget that is there for schools, which itself can only be paid for out of the budget for education and out of the block grant, and those levels of increases in terms of pay are not realistic.”

NASUWT members in more than 100 schools in Belfast and Newtownabbey are expected to stage a one-day strike next Wednesday over pay, workload and job insecurity. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The fact that the minister is now issuing statements on an almost daily basis demonstrates he is clearly rattled by the action being taken by teachers.”

Ms Keates said her union had not put a specific percentage on a pay rise for teachers.

“The NASUWT has never asked for 13%, in fact the union has never put a percentage on the pay claim we are seeking,” she added.

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