Schools close as teachers strike

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Schools close as teachers strike thumbnailMembers from St Dallanís PS, Warrenpoint on strike.

SOME local teachers took part in a half-day strike last week in protest over pay.

The planned action was a result of ongoing talks between the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), the employing authorities and Department of Education.

However, when talks failed before Christmas, INTO members were balloted with an overwhelming majority voting in favour of strike action. Other unions representing teachers are also balloting members on possible strike action.

It is understood teachers from 800 schools across Northern Ireland took part in the strike which lasted from 9am until 12.30pm.

The strike action was the first in a series of planned stoppages by INTO and closed some local schools.

Kevin Daly, from INTO, is the post-primary representative for schools across South Down.

He spent the morning of the strike in Newry where he says every school was either closed for the morning or unable to run a normal timetable.

Mr Daly added: "We had pickets at numerous schools across the area. My own school, St Joseph's Boys' High School in Newry had a solid turnout for the strike as did St Mark's and St Dallan's in Warrenpoint.

“I can confidently report from my travels around the area on the day that none of the schools in the South Down area with significant INTO memberships were able to open as normal."

Mr Daly says INTO was "delighted" with the turnout and support.

He added: "In South Down, INTO Newry branch, the largest branch in Ireland representing some 800 teachers, including those in Banbridge, reported a solid turnout.

“There is palpable anger among the teaching community and a real sense that we as a profession and the pupils we serve have been punished for a financial crisis created by billionaires and the excesses of financiers.

“This punishment has seen our wages frozen, our pension contributions and age at which we can access them increase, resources for our schools and children slashed and we are witnessing reductions in support for all kinds of front-line services including Special Educational Needs."

Mr Daly says union members are often asked if they are disrupting pupils' education and inconveniencing parents by strike action.

He continued: "My answer is simple, as a union we have been fighting for the last six years against cuts to education. As a profession we recognise that these cuts have disrupted our pupils' education but we have bent over backwards to protect those we serve from the worst of the effects of these unjustified and unjustifiable attacks on our young people's futures.

“Teacher numbers are significantly reduced, many small rural schools have closed and many that remain open are under threat and now, after years of pay freezes and pay restraint coupled with increasing workload, teachers finally stand up and say 'enough is enough'."

Mr Daly says INTO will now continue to campaign for a "decent pay rise" for its members and all teachers.

Meanwhile, Education Authority chief executive Gavin Boyd said employers were disappointed by the action.

He added: "We had very constructive talks with the teacher unions on 12 January and agreed to a further meeting on 24 January.

“It is difficult to see what can be achieved by this action other than a loss of pay by teachers and disruption for schools, pupils and parents."


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