Northern Ireland news

School leaders vote in favour of industrial action

School leaders in NI have voted in favour of industrial action

SCHOOL leaders have voted in favour of industrial action amid warnings they will not accept another year of pay cuts.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said members have "overwhelmingly demanded a meaningful settlement this year" after they voted in favour of action short of strike from the start of September unless a resolution is found to their ongoing pay dispute.

The union rejected an offer in February, which it said would have amounted to an average of 2.49 per cent over two years, though not all would be able to avail of it immediately. It also said that following the "depth of frustration evident" at its Northern Ireland conference earlier this year, members were surveyed in advance of making a further appeal to government to rectify the situation.

The union said the survey, which was carried out between May 30 and June 10, found 93 per cent of members are prepared to take industrial action short of a strike, if employers fail to provide a fair pay settlement by August 31.

The union said the response rate to the indicative ballot (78 per cent) demonstrates the depth of feeling around the issue of fair remuneration for the vitally important and demanding role of school leadership.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: "School leaders’ pay has been cut by a fifth in real terms since 2010, and this, in combination with high stakes accountability, crushing workload, long hours and inadequate school funding, is driving leaders from the job they love.

"We need a new, fair deal on pay to make a life-long career in education attractive and sustainable. It is highly unusual for school leaders to contemplate taking industrial action. This signals the depth of the despair members feel. The government can’t push these professionals to the back of the queue any longer.

"If NAHT members tell me that they are prepared to take action then I take them seriously and so should government. NAHT understands the strength of feeling of its membership and it is now plain for the government to see. We appeal to the government to meet with us and arrive at a fair settlement before the summer break so that we can move forward with confidence into the new academic year."

Liam McGuckin, NAHT(NI) president added: "School leaders are not asking for anything unreasonable; they are telling the employers that they have been demeaned and damaged by consecutive pay reductions of over 20 per cent in the last decade, for a job that has become increasingly challenging and less-well-resourced and supported.

"We still believe that genuine attempts to resolve this issue can result in an acceptable settlement, and we remain determined to do all that we can, as a trade union, to exhaust all avenues open to us in order to avoid any escalation to a formal pay dispute.

"Time and patience have, however, almost expired."

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