Northern Ireland

Teachers picket 60 schools over 'insulting' pay offer

Teachers picket
Image caption Hundreds of teachers are taking part in the action

Hundreds of teachers at 60 schools across Northern Ireland are forming picket lines to protest against an "insulting" pay offer.

The lunchtime action is supported by four teaching unions, and it comes after 13 months of talks with the Education Authority ended in October.

The unions walked out over an offer of a 1% pay rise for 2016-17, and no pay rise last year.

Education Minister Peter Weir said he was "disappointed" by the action.

"We have to realise we are in tough economic circumstances in which the support needs to be for schools," he said.

The teaching unions involved are the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

The schools impacted include six in County Armagh, seven in County Tyrone, 16 in County Down, eight in County Londonderry and 22 across County Antrim and Belfast.

'Postcode lottery'

Gerry Murphy, INTO's northern secretary, said teachers in Northern Ireland are paid 16% less than in some areas of the UK.

"It's a postcode lottery for Northern Ireland teachers," he said. "To be paid 16% less than their UK counterparts is more than disheartening."

Image caption The unions walked out over an offer of a 1% pay rise for 2016-17, and no pay rise last year.

UTU chairperson Avril Hall-Callaghan said the Scottish Parliament awarded teachers a 2.5% staged pay deal last year and the union has asked that the education minister consider a staged deal as a way forward in the dispute.

She urged Education Minister Peter Weir not to take teachers for granted.

"They have suffered for five years of all the cutbacks that there have been in the education service, they've worked in schools where maybe their colleagues have been made redundant," she said.

"They've taken up the slack, they have kept the education system running for him and I think it's now his turn to put something back for them."

Director of ATL, Mark Langhammer, said his was traditionally a "moderate teaching association" but that 51% of members backed a strike and 89% were in favour of industrial action.

"The case for decent pay for teachers is an unimpeachable case," he said.

"It is just a matter of priorities, not money."

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