Northern Ireland

NI teaching unions reject pay offer and consider further action

The unions say salaries for teachers in Northern Ireland are falling behind their counterparts in England and Wales
Image caption The unions say salaries for teachers in Northern Ireland are falling behind their counterparts in England and Wales

Teaching unions in Northern Ireland have rejected a pay offer after months of negotiations and are considering further action.

The employers offered no rise for last year and a rise of 1% for 2016-17.

The unions say salaries for teachers in NI are falling behind their counterparts in England and Wales.

The education minister said the rejection of the offer was "disappointing."

Peter Weir added that while he "greatly values" the "hard work teachers do" the package offered was a "realistic one".

"It still allows teaching staff to progress along the pay scale, in addition to a cost of living increase," he said.

"That offer was rejected outright by the unions as were, I understand, earlier and higher offers.

"Given the speed by which the teaching union's statements have issued, I assume they had predetermined their response prior to the negotiations concluding."

The Northern Ireland Teachers' Council (NITC) - the body that represents all five teachers' unions, ATL, INTO, NAHT, NASUWT and UTU - made it clear it was not ruling out industrial action.

'Insult to teachers'

In a statement it said teachers would be "extremely unhappy about this failure of then management side to make a reasonable offer".

It said it would "not be surprising if they call on their leaders to take action in the coming months in order to protect not only teachers themselves but also to protect the fabric of the education service from further damage.

"This offer is an insult to teachers. It means teachers have slipped even further back in terms of their salaries," said Avril Hall-Callaghan, Chair of the NITC.

Gerry Murphy, of INTO, added: "The Department of Education and the employers clearly believe their offer if accepted - which would see experienced teachers' receive a salary increase of less than a pound a day - constitutes an adequate reward for all their hard work and commitment.

"They are so out of touch with the realities of life at the chalk face it is frightening."

Mark Langhammer of ATL said: "Increases in national insurance and pension contributions mean that many teachers' take home pay has decreased in absolute terms.

"In real terms, teachers' pay has plummeted by 15% since 2010/11. Whilst top-executive pay has rocketed stratospherically and tax is routinely avoided and evaded in the corporate world and by the super-wealthy, teachers' status in society has fallen."

From next week, NASUWT members will refuse to attend meetings outside school.

Its General Secretary, Chris Keates, said the patience of its members had been "exhausted".

"Teachers in Northern Ireland are as dedicated, hardworking and committed as their colleagues in Scotland, England and Wales, and yet the employers in Northern Ireland have failed to offer them for 2015-16 even the 1% allowed under the Treasury's pay cap, which other teachers have received.

"They are now two years behind their colleagues [elsewhere in the UK] in terms of a pay settlement," he added.

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