The National Education Union (NEU) which represents thousands of teachers in Northern Ireland are planning to strike for a full day this coming Wednesday after what it described as “months of negotiations with the Department of Education over issues such as pay, workload, and funding for schools.”
Regional Secretary Mark Langhammer said “teachers in Northern Ireland are facing significant challenges that are impacting their ability to deliver high-quality education to their students.”
Langhammer says these challenges include “a lack of resources and support, increasing workload, and stagnant pay.”
The NEU representative said that no significant progress on issues related to pay had been reached in spite of the continuing rate of inflation.
He said members “have been left with no choice but to take this action.”
“No meaningful progress has been made and inflation remains rampant.”
He cited rising energy costs in the UK saying “energy-inflation” has “soared above 180% in the UK, whilst in France – with its publicly owned EDF – energy costs have risen by only 4%”
He slammed “privatised energy companies” who he said “have used the crisis of the NATO/Russian war as an opportunity to blatantly profiteer off the backs of working people.”
Schools’ budgets he said have been “lacerated” by what he said were “shocking cuts” to programs like Happy Healthy Minds, the Engage Programme and Free School Meal holiday payments
The National Education Union says that while “the wealthiest people in the UK” have been the beneficiaries of a “a £4bn tax giveaway”, teachers and parents have been left to ‘make do and mend’.
National Association of Head Teachers NI (NAHT) president in Northern Ireland, Liam McGuckin said, “Our members have reached the absolute last shred of their patience with a system that is failing its schools, its workforce and, most importantly, its young people,”.
“Without expedited significant investment, we will see a profession that holds together much of the fabric of society damaged to an irreparable extent.”he said, adding, “Our children deserve better than this.”
Interim Director of NAHT, Graham Gault, said the decision to strike was a long time in the making as there had been significant restraint shown in the long process of seeking reform.
“The ultimate arbiters on what action we will take, having exercised significant restraint in recent months, are our members,” he said.
Speaking of his impression of the atmosphere at a NAHT NI conference he said an “overwhelming depth of feeling was evident” with “school leaders making it clear that they have carried a fractured, limping system along, with great personal sacrifice.”
“For more than the last decade, they have started every year to significantly increased demand, significantly reduced support and the insult of a pay cut.” he said.
“To be treated in this way, cumulatively, is an insult from our government and our employers. The powerful response to our consultative ballot presents a definitive message to the employers that they must not ignore.”
Alongside the NEU members of NASUWT, INTO, NAHT, and UTU are expected to join the strike.