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Northern Ireland schools furious after union puts them on list of those to be hit by teacher strikes

By Ann W Schmidt and Allan Preston

Published 09/11/2016

Teachers protesting in Belfast over continuing pay issues
Teachers protesting in Belfast over continuing pay issues

Schools have hit out at a teaching union for putting them on its list of institutions which could be hit by its forthcoming strike.

On Monday the NASUWT union said its members will take part in major strike action at the end of the month over pay, workload and job security - which could close schools.

It listed 232 schools across Belfast and Newtownabbey which it said would be impacted by the action.

However, a number of those schools have complained to the Belfast Telegraph that no members of their staff are NASUWT members and therefore could not be impacted by the action.

One head teacher said she was surprised at some of those other schools included on the list.

"We have had to field calls all day from parents wondering what is happening because of this," she said. "As the unions are all too aware, we are overworked and could do without the extra work of having to deal with incorrect information being put out there. And it is all down to the information from the union - they are just wrong."

The NASUWT was unapologetic. A spokesman said parents should confirm with their schools how they will be impacted, if at all. He added that staff in those schools listed can still join the NASUWT at any stage.

The strike arose following a breakdown in negotiations between unions and employers over a pay offer of 0% for 2015/16 and 1% for 2016/17.

Meanwhile teachers from 60 schools - who belong to different unions not involved in the planned strike - staged pickets during lunch times and pick-up times yesterday.

This was part of a joint initiative organised by four unions - INTO, ATL, UTU and the NAHT.

The Belfast Telegraph visited a number of schools where teachers were due to take part in the pickets and found varying levels of participation.

At Our Lady and St Patrick's College in Knock, teachers held banners and handed out flyers to parents as they collected their children from school. Edmund Cowan, the INTO representative for the school, said that the picketing is a way for the teachers to say "enough is enough, especially the last pay offer".

At Orangefield Primary School, teachers handed out the same flyers to the parents and carers of the children, but they didn't hold up signs or demonstrate.

Most parents of children at the school supported the teachers, but said they were concerned about childcare arrangements if the school closed.

Mother Nicola Moore said: "I do sympathise with the teachers and I know what they're going through. It's just as parents it would be hard for us. But if we could try and find a way to sort it out without the school closing, it would be ideal."

Parents at Killyleagh Primary school were unanimous in their support for higher teacher pay.

William Walker (53), who was collecting his daughter Zoe (nine) from school, said teachers needed to be properly valued.

Emily Mills (33) - who has two daughters at the school - said she felt teachers in Northern Ireland should get equal pay to those in England.

Grandmother Pauline O'Prey (56), who was collecting Sophie (eight), commented: "I think they work hard and have a lot to put up with, I certainly wouldn't want to be a teacher nowadays."

Belfast Telegraph

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