As education workers return to picket-lines this morning, Unite the union called on the Education Authority to engage in talks to end poverty pay in Northern Ireland’s school services.
The union emphasized that, despite Education Authority’s claims its hands are tied, it does have the power to make education workers an increase that betters the proposed 1.75 percent, which Unite says is a pay cut as real inflation (the RPI) runs at nine percent and is set to rise further.
Unite made the call after a revised offer from Translink saw bus drivers deferring their strike action. However, the absence of any potential solution from EA management has left education workers including school bus drivers with no alternative but to proceed with planned strike action today.
Unite members working in education roles such as cleaning, catering, classroom staff, youth service and transport are paid at rates far below the average earned by their equivalents in the private sector. School bus drivers, who are charged with the safe transport of both mainstream and Special Education Needs children, are only paid an hourly rate of just £9.86, just 36 pence above the national minimum hourly rate.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham challenged the EA employers: “This is no pay offer – it is a pay cut at a time of rising living costs. It is totally unjustifiable and despite the Education Authority’s claims to the contrary, it absolutely does have the power to give education workers an increase that betters the current 1.75 percent. It should act responsibly and do so.
“The employers need to get back to the table with an acceptable pay offer or strike action will continue because Unite is determined to end the poverty pay which has caused the staffing crisis gripping school services.”
Kieran Ellison, Unite Regional Officer added: “Unite the union members working in education have been left with no alternative but to proceed with the strike action planned for the next two weeks due to the EA`s failure to table an offer that reflects the living costs crisis.
“Unite’s members voted against the 1.75 percent pay offer and for industrial action in overwhelming numbers. This dispute is about achieving a fair wage that all EA Support Staff can reasonably live on and Unite will be supporting our members every step of the way to achieve this.”
Strike action involving Unite members in education is set to continue over the next two weeks commencing with a strike this morning [Tuesday April 26].