Education news

Teachers' Industrial action to continue, conference is told

The NASUWT conference is taking place in Birmingham

TEACHERS are to recommend taking further strike action to ensure they receive "a substantial" pay rise.

Classroom staff from Northern Ireland are joining colleagues from Britain, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Gibraltar in Birmingham for the annual conference of the NASUWT.

A motion on Northern Ireland is to be debated and delegates will be told the profession is "spiralling into a crisis caused by years of declining pay, continual cuts to school budgets and the ongoing political uncertainty".

The union staged two days of rolling strike action in 2016 and 2017 in protest over pay.

The motion states that teachers' pay in Northern Ireland continues to fall behind that of those elsewhere.

Since 2011, the conference will hear, the salary shortfall figure against inflation is 18.6 per cent while pay increased by just 1 per cent in 2014 and 2016 with 0 per cent every other year.

In addition, there have been substantial increases in pension contributions.

Teachers will be told: "Conference commits the NASUWT to continuing to resist the attacks on teachers' pay and other terms and conditions. Conference urges the national executive to use all appropriate trade union responses up to, and including, strike action to ensure that all teachers receive a substantial pay rise."

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said teachers everywhere faced immense challenges, but none more so than in Northern Ireland.

"Our members have seen their pay cut and their workloads spiral even higher. Only the NASUWT's industrial action is making their day-to-day teaching bearable," she said.

"To add insult to injury, the employers sought to make a pay settlement for 2017/18 conditional on the NASUWT ending its industrial action. There is no way that teachers will give up the only means by which they are able to take some professional control over their working lives.

"Until teachers are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals and have the working conditions they need to do the job, industrial action remains.”

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official for Northern Ireland, said staff in the north felt "undervalued, demoralised and frustrated".

Meanwhile, a survey of NASUWT members has found pupils are being taught in schools that are damp, have mould, or are simply not big enough.

It suggests that schools have had to take measures such as increasing class sizes and setting up temporary classrooms to cope with rising pupil numbers, while current buildings are beginning to crumble, or becoming unsuitable for staff and students.

Overall, more than a third (37 per cent) of the more than 1,200 NASUWT members polled rated the physical condition of the buildings they work in as poor, with a further 36 per cent describing them as adequate, and the rest saying they are good or very good.

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The NASUWT secured compensation of almost £17 million for members during 2017.

The compensation was awarded for claims including unfair dismissal, unlawful discrimination, personal injuries and assault.

The union's conference will hear that £35,000 was secured for a 26-year-old trainee teacher from London who was forced out of her training after becoming pregnant.

More than £30,000 was awarded to a member from South Yorkshire who was made redundant, which he believed was on account of his trade union membership and activities.

The total awarded to members from Northern Ireland in 2017 was £48,655.

General secretary Chris Keates said the union would continue to pursue employers who were negligent in terms of the health and welfare of members.

"The scale of discrimination and prejudice is deeply disturbing and it is likely that this is only the tip of the iceberg," she said.

"The NASUWT has a record second to none in seeking justice for members who have experienced unfair treatment at work and more and more of our members are feeling empowered to seek our support and assistance. However, compensation cannot make up for the anxiety and turmoil that these members experience which in many cases has a lasting effect on their career and on their mental and physical wellbeing."

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