Northern Ireland news

Unite members begin next stage of strike action

It is part of the latest stage of strike action by the Unite union. Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

A WALK-OUT by some council workers and Housing Executive staff in a dispute over pay began yesterday with Education Authority (EA) employees set to join the strike action from today.

Some special schools are expected to face disruption amid the stoppage by EA staff with transport and meals for pupils set to be impacted for the next two weeks.

Unite members are striking from today to May 1 and again from next Tuesday to May 8.

The pay dispute is expected to impact on the EA's home-to-school bus service, some school meal provision and on the availability of classroom assistants, particularly in special schools.

Council services are also due to be affected over the next fortnight, including some bin collections and street cleaning.

Unite members launched industrial action last month after rejecting a 1.75 per cent pay offer, which the union described as a "real-terms pay cut".

Gareth Scott from Unite said: "These employers need to address the pay expectations of their workforce.

"Their failure to do so to date has led to this escalation and the unnecessary disruption that will inevitably result."

Meanwhile, another trade union last night warned that members are "prepared to do battle" over fair pay.

Thousands of Unison education support service workers have pledged to bring their demands for pay improvement right to the minister in situ and make their demands the centre of election debates leading up to the May 5 Assembly election.

In a recent consultation the union said it had received the backing of its members to make their demand for an EA pay and grading review.

Noreen Robinson from Unison said: "We were promised this as part of the 2019-2021 pay deal.

"The Covid pandemic certainly caused a delay.

"But there is no excuse for the recent failure of the outgoing minister and the department to mandate the opening of EA negotiations with trade unions."

Ms Robinson added that it should be "abundantly clear that education workers are not going to give up and go away"

"There were no signals that we are valued," she said.

"There was no Covid recognition bonus for the thousands of classroom assistants, catering staff, estates, transport and office staff who kept the schools open and safe for our children during extremely challenging times.

"Over the next number of weeks Unison members will be sending strong messages from our workplaces that we deserve better. These messages will be brought to whatever minister is in place after May 5th.

"No response will lead very quickly to notice of a trade dispute and a full scale ballot for industrial action in the weeks that follow."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news