The lack of a functioning Executive means “the future of our education system hangs in the balance yet again”, a union has said.
Teachers in Northern Ireland believe politicians must intervene for strike action to be averted, as a dispute over pay and working conditions threatens to escalate.
Members of NASUWT are already engaged in action short of striking, but there is a growing prospect of all-out strike following what unions describe as an “insulting” pay offer. According to unions, teaching employers claimed the deal was a 3.2% increase over two years. However, the unions said the deal consisted of a restructure of pay grades which cost less than an equivalent pay offer of 1% each year.
With no government yet formed at Stormont, unions are now turning up the heat as frustration grows over a lack of progress in pay talks.
Jacquie White, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) said: “As expected, the people we voted into Stormont last week have been unable to form a government, and so the future of our education system hangs in the balance yet again.”
The UTU has joined forces with the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), the National Education Union (NEU), and National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in a joint pay campaign.
“It is almost a year now since we submitted our initial pay claim. We then rejected the minister’s derisory pay offer, which, in light of the rising cost of living, is an insult and yet still we have no movement,” said Ms White.
“Teachers deserve a pay offer which recognises their value to society and acknowledges the contribution they have made in recent years to keep our ailing education system functioning in the face of a pandemic and continued underfunding. The offer we received was not that.
“As a union, UTU has not yet balloted members on industrial action, short of strike or not, and we are loathe to be pushed to that stage. But as time goes on without any movement it is little wonder teachers are becoming increasingly frustrated.”
Gerry Murphy, northern secretary of INTO, said: “It is vital the politicians get their act together. Teachers have been in the front line and gone above and beyond in supporting children and young people in their care. Understandably they are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry at how they’re being treated.”
Graham Gault, president of the NAHT, said: “As principals, the last thing we want is industrial action. We certainly don’t want to be returning to class in the autumn with this unresolved pay dispute hanging over our heads.”
Mark Langhammer, the senior regional official of the NEU, added: “What we need is for our politicians to take this issue seriously and recognise that teachers are essential workers who are key to the future well being, of not only our society, but our economy.”