Northern Ireland

Teachers will ‘not hesitate to escalate industrial action’ if satisfactory pay agreement is not reached, INTO conference hears

Education minister Paul Givan speaking at  the INTO northern conference in Belfast, on Friday
INTO Northern Conference 2024 Education minister Paul Givan speaking at the INTO northern conference in Belfast on Friday. PICTURE: KEVIN COOPER/PHOTOLINE (Kevin Cooper Photoline)

Teachers will “not hesitate to escalate industrial action” if a satisfactory pay agreement is not reached, a teachers’ trade union conference has heard.

Members of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) gathered in Belfast on Friday where they heard that “no pay deal has yet been secured” leaving teachers and school leaders in the north the lowest paid in the UK.

Delegates heard calls for a “significant pay uplift”, which union officials say is “vital to ensuring the continued success of the education sector across Northern Ireland for decades to come”.

Newly appointed Stormont education minister Paul Givan spoke at the conference, telling INTO members that a resolution to ongoing industrial action in schools is “critical”.

The DUP minister said continued industrial action was having a serious detrimental impact on the education of children and young people across the north.

In recent months, teachers have taken part in strikes over an outstanding pay award, as well as long-running action short of strikes over conditions.

Last month, unions put planned strike dates “on hold” pending fresh pay talks.



“I am committed to stabilising the education system and this cannot be achieved with the ongoing industrial action, including action short of strike,” said Mr Givan.

“I want to state clearly that it is not acceptable that teachers have not received a pay award for three years.

“Our teachers and school leaders deserve to be paid at a level which recognises the outstanding job they do.

“Immediately following my appointment, I met with the five recognised teaching trade unions (NITC).

“I hope that following continuing negotiations, it will soon be possible to bring an end to all industrial action and provide teachers with a pay award which recognises their value.”

Turning to wider investment in education, Mr Givan said: “Since taking up office just under one month ago, I have set out a clear vision of how I want to reshape our education offering to deliver a system that is worthy of our children, our teachers and our ambitions for a prosperous and dynamic Northern Ireland.

“That cannot be achieved without adequate and recurrent investment, particularly in regard to pay awards.

“We know that education is facing significant challenges and with the current financial resources, we cannot presently meet the increasing demands placed on the system.”

But Mark McTaggart, INTO northern secretary, told the conference that while pay talks had begun between employers and the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council, there had been “no new positive outcomes to report”.

“Teachers and school leaders have already demonstrated their capacity to fight for a salary that properly reflects their true worth to society, and which allows them to feel valued and respected by those in power,” he said.

Mark McTaggart; INTO Northern Secretary speaking at the INTO Northern Conference in Belfast on Friday 1 March
Mark McTaggart; INTO Northern Secretary speaking at the INTO Northern Conference in Belfast on Friday. PICTURE: KEVIN COOPER/PHOTOLINE

“The minister and his officials must now make a pay offer to teachers and school leaders that reflects their true value to society if they want children and young people to have access to the best possible education system.

“Northern committee will not hesitate to escalate industrial action in the future if a satisfactory agreement is not reached.

“We look forward to further negotiations with a view to finding a resolution to the pay dispute as quickly as possible.”

Other issues to be discussed during the two-day conference include the “chronic under-funding of schools”, continuing concerns over support for children with special educational need in both special and mainstream schools, as well as recruitment and retention of staff.