Education minister criticised over backing assessment that striking teachers are in breach of contract
STORMONT'S education minister should be "thrashing out" a pay agreement with unions instead of suggesting striking teachers could see their wages cut, it has been claimed.
The DUP's Michelle McIlveen has confirmed that educators could face pay deductions if they take part in industrial action following a ballot by teachers' union NASUWT that saw members support a strike over pay.
The ballot prompted a letter from the Management Side of the Teachers’ Negotiating Committee (TNC), which represents teachers' employers in the north, to principals in June warning that striking would be a breach of contract.
Some NASUWT members had been taking part in industrial action short of striking before the end of the school term, including not taking part in certain duties.
Another teaching union, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, has also said it plans to ballot members on strike action in the weeks ahead over a pay dispute.
Now Ms McIlveen has indicated she backs the TNC assessment on striking teachers.
In an answer to a written Assembly question, the minister said: "I understand that TNC Management Side has undertaken an assessment of the industrial action and determined that participating in the NASUWT’s action amounts to a breach of teachers’ contractual duties."
The response has prompted criticism from SDLP education spokesperson and MLA Daniel McCrossan, who said: "It’s incredible that after all our teaching staff have been through over the past few years that they are being threatened with pay deductions for daring to use their right to strike action in an attempt to secure fair pay and working conditions.
"Instead of doing everything within her power to address these issues so that staff don’t feel the need to strike, education minister Michelle McIlveen has doubled down on this threat and confirmed staff could have their salary deducted."
Mr McCrossan said teachers went "above and beyond to ensure that children’s education could continue" during the Covid pandemic, adding: "Rather than talking about pay deductions Minister McIlveen should be getting around the table with unions and thrashing out a pay agreement and improved working conditions so that our teachers feel respected and valued and no longer see the need for strike action."