Belfast Telegraph

Teachers plan half-day strikes in row over pay

By Staff Reporter

Teachers in Northern Ireland's Catholic schools sector have voted to take strike action in the new year over a long-running pay dispute.

Members of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) are to strike in January.

The decision comes after members of the NASUWT union staged a one-day strike in around 100 schools in Belfast and Newtownabbey last month.

INTO, which has 7,000 members here, said the result of the ballot sent a clear message to Education Minister Peter Weir and to employers.

It will stage a series of half-day strikes in the new year.

Seamus Hanna, chairman of the union's northern committee, said: "INTO has taken every possible measure to avoid the closure of schools.

"We constructively entered into talks to find a just and reasonable pay deal, but this was met with an imposed award which provides no salary increase for teachers for the year 2015/16 and an imposed 1% for 2016/17."

"Teachers remain the only group within education to be denied any increase for 2015/16.

"It needs to be made clear that Peter Weir has subsequently attempted to confuse the public by presenting a contractual salary entitlement paid to just 9% of young teachers as a pay increase for all teachers.

"Despite the sincerity of our efforts, all attempts to find a just settlement and avoid the closure of schools have now failed.

"Action short of strike involving the Education Training Inspectorate (ETI) will commence on January 6, 2017 and will involve INTO members withdrawing all their co-operation with the ETI.

"This action will be followed up with a series of half-day strikes.

"The first of these will take place on January 18, 2017."

There was a 40% turnout in the strike ballot, according to the union. Of those who voted, 78% backed walkouts.

The INTO decision comes just a day after another teaching union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), voted against strike action in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff, the chairman of Stormont's education committee, said it was disappointing that negotiations between the Education Authority and teachers' unions had broken down in the autumn.

That breakdown has, he claimed, led to the call for strike action.

"It has been our view that meaningful discussions involving all parties to this dispute is the best way forward to achieve a resolution," the MLA added.

Last night the DUP Education Minister urged the unions to reconsider their industrial action.

"I am disappointed to hear that INTO has decided to take strike action, unlike the ATL, which has voted for action short of strike," Mr Weir said.

"Neither sits easy with me.

"I would ask teaching unions to reflect on any planned disruption, as industrial action is not in the interests of children, schools or teachers themselves.

"I would urge them to go back to the negotiating table for future years and to accept that the pay offer they walked away from is not in a position to be improved upon."

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