Belfast Telegraph

Teachers in strike threat over pay

By Lesley Houston

Northern Ireland’s teachers could join future industrial action against localised pay rates if the government persists with plans to introduce them.

A member of a major union said teachers in Northern Ireland might strike in a move to signal the profession’s “utter rejection” of plans to introduce regional pay for UK public sector workers.

Over the Easter weekend, the NASUWT supported the National Union of Teachers’ plans to escalate their campaigns on pension cuts and pay and conditions.

The NASUWT has stated, however, that no decision would be made until the issue was fully discussed at the next meeting of its National Executive in May.

Local members would then have to be given the chance to decide on strike action, if the decision was made to go ahead with such drastic measures.

Westminster Education Secretary Michael Gove has asked the body which advises ministers on teachers' pay to look at the issue of regional pay following the idea first raised by Chancellor George Osborne.

Teachers, like many public sector workers in the UK, have nationally agreed rates of pay, bringing teachers on a similar grade in different parts of the country to approximate parity.

Northern Ireland teachers say they are already worse off than colleagues in England and Wales due to the fact that despite enjoying the same rate of basic pay, they fail to benefit from pay hikes induced by career progression and promotion.

Fred Brown, who was among the Northern Ireland delegates at the NASUWT’s annual conference in Birmingham, which ended yesterday, said any strike action “would not be taken lightly”.

He added that pending the outcome of the National Executive’s May meeting, “we would then have to hold discussions with our members throughout Northern Ireland”.

“We’ll only take all-out strike action if it’s totally necessary. No union wants to walk into strike action for the sake of it,” he said.

“Unless it was the only way we could move it forward because teachers are very reluctant to take any kind of action that will affect the education of our pupils.”

Mr Brown said: “This is not against the management of schools but is essentially action against the Westminster government.

“We hope that our ministers here in Northern Ireland will continue to protect the education of our young people which has so far served them so well.”

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The issue of regional pay was first raised by Chancellor George Osborne, prompting criticism from public sector unions. Teachers, like many other public sector workers in the UK, have nationally agreed rates of pay, so teachers on a similar grade in different parts of the country earn roughly the same, although those teaching in London earn more.

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