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Striking assistants return to classroom

By Lisa Smyth

Thousands of classroom assistants were today returning to work for the first time in over a week after voting to suspend all out strike action.

The development has been hailed as a positive step for the hundreds of schoolchildren who have been caught up in the industrial action.

Members of public service union Nipsa have spent 10 days on strike in total, during which time special schools across Northern Ireland closed and children with special educational needs attending mainstream schools were forced to remain at home.

However, as staff returned to work this morning, children across Northern Ireland were finally able to return to class.

Talks were due to commence today between the unions and education and library boards in an effort to broker a deal between the parties. A deadline for the new round of negotiations has been set for October 30.

The breakthrough came after the Labour Relations Agency became involved in the dispute at the end of last week, but as classroom assistants returned to work today management was warned to bring a new deal to the table to stop further strike action.

Nipsa's general secretary John Corey said: "Members have voted democratically to suspend the strike action until October 30 to enable these new negotiations to proceed.

"However, at the meetings members remained extremely angry that the core issues of the dispute have still to be resolved and members made it very clear they are fully committed and ready to resume strike action if that is necessary.

"It is therefore essential if we are to resolve this dispute that the employers come to these negotiations fully committed to negotiating a new agreement that will be acceptable to the classroom assistants."

Spokesman for the education and library boards Robin Harper said: "Our primary concern is for the welfare of the children affected by the strike."

Belfast Telegraph


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