Teacher salaries bill increases by £40m in three years
THE amount spent on teachers' salaries in Northern Ireland has increased by almost £40 million in the last three years.
As unions are engaged in a pay dispute with employers, new figures reveal an spike of about 5 per cent.
There have been three strikes taken by two unions in recent months, while others are involved in industrial action that includes refusal to cooperate with inspections.
All the main teaching unions have rejected a pay offer that would see staff receive no across the board rise for 2015/16, and a 1 per cent cost of living uplift for 2016/17.
Teachers who have not yet reached the top of the pay scale continue to receive their automatic pay increases annually.
New figures provided by the Education Authority (EA) reveal teachers' pay cost more than £820 million in 2015/16, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
This was more than the previous three years, when the overall amount paid was £797m, £783m and £782m.
The EA costs include all teachers, including principals, in state-controlled and Catholic maintained schools but do not include staff in voluntary grammar or grant maintained integrated schools.
The rise can be partly explained by an increase in the number of teachers in schools.
In 2015/16 there were 18,812, compared to 18,585 in 2014/15. The average pay was higher in 2015/16, however - £43,589 compared to £42,882.
Employers, meanwhile, are hopeful that they can reach a deal with teachers to end industrial action.
EA chief executive Gavin Boyd, chairman of the management side representing employers and the Department of Education, said he was disappointed and frustrated by strikes.
"The employers held constructive talks with the teaching unions on 12th and 24th January. Both sides agreed to work together to produce an agreed agenda to provide the basis for intensive negotiations going forward," Mr Boyd said.
A further joint meeting to complete this work took place this week.
"These matters can only be resolved through dialogue. The employers are fully committed to engaging in intensive negotiations to address the issues connected with industrial action," Mr Boyd added.
"We remain encouraged that further talks are scheduled for later this week and we are optimistic we can still work collaboratively with teacher representatives to establish an agreed agenda for negotiations.
"It is in this spirit we urge the teaching unions to suspend all industrial action and to fully commit to negotiations as agreed."
TEACHING STAFF COSTS AND NUMBERS
YEAR COST TEACHERS
2015/16 820,008 18,812
2014/15 796,979 18,585
2013/14 782,704 18,343
2012/13 782,217 17,345
2011/12 800,618 17,589