Attacks on teacher pay must be resisted, conference hears
TEACHERS are threatening to take fresh strike action to gain a "substantial pay rise", a conference will hear.
Members of the NASUWT union are gathering in Belfast this weekend.
It is among unions that last year submitted a claim for a five per cent cost-of-living pay rise for teachers. No increase was approved for 2017/18.
Unions including the NASUWT have taken strike action already over pay.
All main unions are angry, having rejected an offer that would see staff receive no across the board pay rise for 2015/16, and a 1 per cent cost of living uplift for 2016/17.
Continuing industrial action also includes a refusal to cooperate with inspectors.
The NASUWT's annual conference in Belfast will consider motions on a range of issues affecting the profession including violence against school staff, budgets, workload, pay and "the demoralisation of teachers".
The union's UK president, Belfast teacher Fred Brown, will also attend the conference, which will hear from speakers including Children's Commissioner KoullaYiasouma and former education minister Peter Weir of the DUP.
General secretary Chris Keates said teachers are meeting against a backdrop of savage budget cuts and deep political uncertainty.
Members will debate a motion calling for "all appropriate trade union responses up to, and including strike action, to ensure teachers gain a substantial pay rise".
At the end of last year, the union wrote to David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, calling on him to ensure there was "a significant above inflation pay award for teachers for 2017/18 to compensate them for the year-on-year cuts to teachers’ pay".
Delegates will be shown figures that show the cumulative effect of pay freezes and pension increases from 2010 to 2017.
Combined cumulative losses are said to range from £19,000 for a teacher on the bottom of the main pay scale to almost £29,700 for those at the top.
A teacher on the top of the upper pay scale, the union said, would have lost more than £35,000.
Ms Keates said the Department of Education "must recognise the deterioration in the pay of teachers and other public sector workers in Northern Ireland and act immediately to address the cuts they have been enduring since 2010".
"There is deep anger and frustration among teachers that they are continuing to be asked to do more for less, while class sizes increase, budgets are cut and support services are withdrawn," she said.
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official for Northern Ireland, said it was no longer enough simply to lay the blame for inaction on the lack of an executive.
"Public spending on education in Northern Ireland continues to fall on a year-by-year basis," he said.
"The failure to give teachers a substantial pay rise has led to a sense of injustice in the profession and is making the recruitment and retention crisis worse."
BUDGET cuts, rising class sizes and the cutting of specialist support services are leading to increases in physical and verbal abuse against staff, the NASUWT has said.
The union's annual conference in Belfast will debate a motion today which says more than one in 10 members have been assaulted at work.
The debate follows revelations that the number of suspensions for assaults on school staff trebled between 2014/15 and 2015/16.
In the last academic year NASUWT members in three schools in Northern Ireland voted in a ballot to refuse to teach pupils who had attacked teachers.
The motion says the levels of assaults on teachers “can be attributed directly to budget cuts, redundancies, rising class sizes and fewer resources for specialist support".
General secretary Chris Keates said the union was being inundated with teachers reporting assaults on a daily basis.
"No teacher or other worker should go to work with an expectation that they should tolerate violence and abuse," she said.
"Where violence occurs, employers should adopt a zero tolerance approach and send a strong message to parents, pupils and the community that violence against school staff is completely unacceptable."
NASUWT Northern Ireland official Justin McCamphill added that discipline was breaking down in many schools and teachers were bearing the brunt of this.