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School closures loom as unions back strike

Hundreds of schools across Northern Ireland could be forced to close later this month after three teaching unions agreed to strike over cuts and changes to their pensions.

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) are now set to walk out on November 30.

But one of the largest unions representing teachers across the province failed to reach the two-thirds majority required for a walkout.

Only half of the Ulster Teachers’ Union’s 6,000-odd members voted in favour of a strike.

General secretary Avril Hall-Callaghan said that regardless of the ballot decision the “strength of feeling has clearly been exhibited”.

It was announced yesterday that half of the 800 members of the NAHT union — made up of principals and vice principals — had voted in the strike ballot, with 67% in favour of industrial action.

It is the first time in the organisation’s history it has voted for a walkout.

The INTO also announced its ballot results last night with 88% of those in favour of action.

The ATL has already announced its 3,000 members in Northern Ireland voted in favour of industrial action

NASUWT, which represents over 11,000 teachers — making it the largest in Northern Ireland —

is expected to announce its voting result on Friday.

The decision for unions to ballot members was taken after the Executive gave the green light earlier this month to proceed with proposed changes to the teachers’ pension scheme.

Unions representing around 30,000 teachers across the province are angry they were not consulted over the matter.

Thousands will now join with other unions from across the public sector during the mass walkout later this month over pension and job cuts.

Last month the Department of Finance and Personnel was warned by the UK Treasury that if it did not impose the changes by April next year it would face a cut of £4.6m each month from Northern Ireland’s block grant.

Factfile

Under the Executive’s proposed pension changes, a teacher earning £21,000 will have to pay an extra £61 a month or £732 a year towards their pension.

A teacher retiring after 36 years on a salary of £41,000 would see their pension slashed by more than £5,000 to £13,000.

Belfast Telegraph