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Half-day teacher strike to hit 800 Northern Ireland schools as pay dispute continues

By Rebecca Black

Thousands of pupils will be hit by strikes this morning as teachers from the INTO union stage a walkout.

The industrial action is being taken over pay, job security and workload.

Negotiations between unions and management, which ended after 13 months with no agreement, restarted last week with a meeting that had been described as "constructive".

The unions rejected a pay offer of 0% for 2015/16 and 1% for 2016/17.

Management expressed disappointment that the INTO action will proceed today.

INTO claims that 800 schools across Northern Ireland will be affected by the strike.

The union's Gerry Murphy said its 7,000 members were "fed up and angry".

He will lead a rally in Space One at Queen's University's Students' Union this morning, while members will picket schools.

The strike action will take place from 9am to 12.30pm.

"Schools across the north will be closed, or partially closed, as INTO members have come together to support each other in their campaign for a fair and just resolution to their pay claim for 2015/16," Mr Murphy said in a statement.

"Teachers are loath to take strike action, but, having exhausted all the avenues of negotiation available to them, teachers have no options left other than to withdraw their labour.

"This is the first of a series of planned stoppages.

"And INTO will not hesitate to enact further work stoppages should the employing authorities continue to deny teachers an increase already paid to every other education worker in the 2015/16 year."

Gavin Boyd, chief executive of the Education Authority - which represents employers and the Department of Education - queried what the action will achieve.

"The employers are extremely disappointed with INTO's plan to proceed with a half-day strike," he said.

"We had very constructive talks with the teacher unions on January 12 and agreed to a further meeting on January 24.

"It is difficult to see what can be achieved by this action other than a loss of pay by teachers and disruption for schools, pupils and parents.

"The employers remain committed to engaging in intensive negotiations to attempt to resolve issues connected with industrial action.

"We are encouraged with the agreement to hold further talks. In this context, we urge the teaching unions to end all industrial action and to commit fully to negotiations as agreed."

The NASUWT carried out strike action in the Belfast and Newtownabbey areas in November.

Some 77 schools were affected by the one-day walkout, with some having to close completely. It is due to stage more walkouts on Tuesday, January 31 at schools across the Derry city, Strabane, Mid Ulster, Fermanagh and Omagh areas as part of what it has described as "rolling strikes".

Members of two other Northern Ireland teaching unions - UTU and ATL - have voted for industrial action short of striking in response to the pay dispute.

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