Teachers’ strike action may force some school closures

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A NUMBER of schools in the Omagh district could be forced to close in the New Year after teachers of the INTO union overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action over the ongoing pay dispute.

Last week's ballot revealed that a total of 78 per cent of teachers supported strike action while 95 per cent voted in favour of action short of strike.

Action short of strike, involving the Education Training Inspectorate (ETI), will commence on January 6, and will involve Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) members withdrawing all co-operation with the ETI.

This action will be followed up with a series of half day strikes - the first of which will take place on January 18, with future dates to be confirmed.

It is believed the strike will force the closure of the majority of Council for Catholic Maintained Schools in the area including Christian Brothers' Grammar School and Sacred Heart College as well as a number of primary schools.

The union said the ballot delivers a clear message to the Minister for Education, Peter Weir, and the Employing Authorities, that value must, once and for all, be placed on children's education and on the teachers delivering that education on a daily basis.

In October, all teaching unions in Northern Ireland rejected an offer that would have seen their pay frozen last year and a rise of one per cent for 2016-17.

Teachers are asking for a pay rise for 2015/16 and a fair wage. Pay has been frozen since 2010 and teachers have lost approximately 15 per cent of their salaries in real terms, it has been claimed.

Annmarie Conway, a local teacher and INTO Western area post-primary representative, said teachers have had enough.

Seamus Hanna, chairman of the INTO's Northern Committee, said the INTO has taken every possible measure to talk to those in power and agree a deal which is right, and just, for its members and said teachers' goodwill and professionalism will no longer be allowed to be taken for granted.



"The INTO has taken every possible measure to avoid the closure of schools," he said.

"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.

"It needs to be made clear that Peter Weir has subsequently attempted to confuse the public by presenting a contractual salary entitlement paid to just nine per cent of young teachers as a pay increase for all teachers.

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

"The INTO is now directed by our members to engage in both, half day strike action and, in action short of strike, which will include non co-operation with the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

"The INTO have made it clear that it will continue to remain available to the Minister for Education for meaningful talks."

Gerry Murphy, the union's Northern secretary, said: "The INTO is now mandated by its members to engage in a programme of action that is aimed at securing a just and fair pay settlement for our members.

"We will continue to remain available to engage meaningfully with the education Employing Authorities and the Minister. The ball is in their court."


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