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Teachers vote to stage half-day strikes in 2017 over pay dispute

A second teaching union in Northern Ireland has announced strike action amid an ongoing pay dispute.

Members of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) will stage a series of half-day strikes in the new year.

The move comes after members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) staged a one-day strike in about 100 schools in Belfast and Newtownabbey last month.

Unions have rejected an offer that would have delivered a 1% pay rise this year, with pay rates for 2015/16 remaining frozen.

Stormont's Education Minister Peter Weir has claimed a bigger increase could only be afforded by making redundancies.

The INTO has 7,000 members in Northern Ireland. Its strike ballot attracted a 40% turnout, with four out of five of the voters opting for industrial action.

Seamus Hanna, chairman of INTO's northern committee, said: "The 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 one per cent for 2016/17.

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

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

Mr Weir has previously stated he was prepared to discuss "realistic" pay proposals for 2017/18 onward but said there would be no more negotiations on the rejected offer.

Responding to the INTO announcement, Mr Weir said he was disappointed.

"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," he said.

"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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