Thousands of education workers in Northern Ireland to walk out in dispute over pay on Thursday

Thousands of education support workers across Northern Ireland are taking part in strike action over pay and grading.

It comes after Unite members, including bus drivers, classroom assistants, cooks and clerical staff, started a 48-hour walkout on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Unison and GMB union members are to strike for a day, and members of Nipsa (Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance) took part in a two-hour strike after the start of their shifts.

Alan Law, Nipsa assistant secretary and lead trade union secretary, said the action is around four points: pay and grading review; job evaluation; pay differentials and education cuts.

“Nipsa is picketing in almost 150 locations on Thursday,” he said.

“This demonstrates how angry and frustrated our members are with the Department of Education and Education Authority.

“We have been overwhelmed with the response from our membership’s response to the strike action.

“The scale of the picketing is amongst the largest we have organised and indicates our members’ determination to win this dispute.

“I have been impressed by the scale of our picketing locations following our call for industrial action and we have also been flooded with 1,000 new membership applications in recent days.

“The message could not be clearer: education workers are determined to fight and win.”

Alan Perry, GMB senior organiser, said the strike is “just the start”.

“Enough is enough – GMB members are among the lowest paid across the education sector,” he said.

“Given the current cost-of-living crisis, they just can’t cope anymore.

“This is just the start. There will be strikes across the authority until our members’ concerns and right to fair pay are addressed.”

Last week, Department of Education permanent secretary Mark Browne said the strike action “will undoubtedly cause significant disruption to services right across the education sector and have a major impact on parents and pupils, including our most vulnerable children and young people”.

He described the move as “disappointing”, saying a pay award, which covers non-teaching staff, was agreed on November 1 for 2023-24.

He said it has been provided to the Education Authority to allow the award to be implemented as soon as possible.

“I would urge everyone concerned to reconsider, in light of the serious ramifications of this strike and the severe disruption that will be caused,” Mr Browne added.

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