Teachers' union vows strike will bring Belfast schools to standstill
Education Minister 'disappointed' as teachers prepare to walk out over pay rise row
Teacher strikes later this month will close the majority of schools in Belfast, the biggest teachers union in Northern Ireland has vowed.
The NASUWT has not yet announced a date for the strikes, but said the first in a series will take place at the end of November in the Belfast and Newtownabbey areas.
The union has provided a list of scores of nursery, primary, special and secondary schools which are set to be affected, including some of the province's top grammar schools.
The date of the strike action will be announced later this week when the official notice is sent to employers.
NASUWT has put the employers and Education Minister Peter Weir on notice that unless they "come forward" with a pay offer that its members will accept, "they will be responsible for forcing the dedicated and committed teachers of Northern Ireland to demonstrate their anger and frustration through strike action".
Mr Weir said he is very disappointed at the statement from the union.
NASUWT spokesman Justin McCamphill claimed union members have been forced into taking the action because their employers - the Education Authority - have not conceded to pay rise demands.
"This action will close schools across Belfast and Newtownabbey, it will close the majority of schools in Belfast," he said.
"We have been put into this position because of the divisive nature of the approach taken by the minister and employers. The ball really is in their court." Further rolling strikes are planned for other areas across Northern Ireland next January and February.
But Mr Weir said teachers have received a rise.
"Teachers' pay has not been cut - teachers have received what they are contractually entitled to (progression up the pay scale for eligible teachers)," he said. "In addition teachers' salaries and allowances will be uplifted by 1% from September 2016.
"Therefore teachers have also received a pay increase."
Meanwhile, four other teachers' unions - INTO, ATL, UTU and NAHT - will stage pickets over the same issue at school gates today.
Teachers in selected schools throughout Northern Ireland will be leafleting parents and highlighting concerns about what they are calling 'serious funding shortages' set to face schools in coming years.
Sixty schools and hundreds of teachers are expected to take part in the pickets across Northern Ireland.
The planned actions come after the unions and Education Authority were unable to agree a pay increase for teachers.
An offer of 0% for 2015/16 academic year and 1% for 2016/17 was rejected by unions last month following talks which lasted 13 months.
However, many teachers will have received their annual incremental pay increases, which every teacher gets each year until a fixed limit is reached.
Mr Weir added: "I believe that package brought forward by the management side of the Teachers' Negotiating Committee in relation to teachers' pay for 2015 and 2016 was realistic and still allows teaching staff to pr ogress along the pay scale, in addition to a cost of living increase."