Northern Ireland school transport strike action expected to cause significant disruption

Thousands of education workers have taken to picket lines across Northern Ireland as part of two-days of industrial action.

Disruption is expected to school transport services on Wednesday as Unite the Union members begin their action over pay.

Some schools will also be closed as part of the walk out by almost 800 staff.

GMB and NIPSA members are expected to join the strike on the second day on what will be one of the biggest strikes among non-teaching unions in years.

The action is being taken as part of an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions.

School cooks, admin, cleaning, classroom assistants and other staff will take part.

According to Unite the Union, recent communication from Department of Education "confirms that business case for negotiated commitment has still not been submitted".

Members returned a 94% majority in favour of this round of industrial action.

Unite regional officer Kieran Ellison said: “Responsibility for this escalation in industrial action lies wholly with the obstructive behaviour of senior management at the Department of Education whose latest communication reveals that they failed to even seek funding for the pay and grading review.”

In a statement issued ahead of strike action, the Department for Education's permanent secretary Dr Mark Browne said is was "particularly disappointing".

He outlined that on "1 November 2023 the NJC Pay award, which covers non-teaching staff in Northern Ireland, was agreed for 2023-24" which he said "increases each pay point on the NJC scale by £1,925 or a minimum of 3.88% and will be backdated to 1 April 2023.

"The average increase for non-teaching staff in Northern Ireland is expected to be 8.1%," he added.

"The pay award means an employee on the lowest pay point in April 2021 will have received an increase in their pay of £4,033 (22.0%) over the two years to April 2023 (pro-rata for part-time employees).”

Approval has been provided to the Education Authority to allow the award to be implemented as soon as possible.

Dr Browne continued: “I would urge everyone concerned to re-consider, in light of the serious ramifications of this strike and the severe disruption that will be caused.”

The department said it continues to engage with the Education Authority to ensure "proposals are fully justified and affordable" but that further funding would need to be made available by the government for implementation.

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