Strike action in Northern Ireland: Workers outline reasons behind widespread industrial action

Northern Ireland workers have spoken of how they want to be in the workplace on Thursday and not on the picket lines calling for better pay.

"It's a decision I've not taken lightly. It makes me very sad. I want to be in my classroom, teaching my children," said primary school teacher Jane McConville.

She will join thousands of her colleagues on picket lines across Northern Ireland on Thursday.

The day of mass industrial action will leave no part of public life untouched - from education, health and public transport, around 175,000 workers from 15 unions are expected to take part in the walk out.

They all have one ask - Pay parity with their counterparts in Great Britain.

On Monday, the secretary of state held bilateral talks with parties and reiterated the financial package offered in December of £3.3billion - of which almost £600million could go towards solving the pay dispute.

The only condition, that parties get back around the executive table.

Political parties have said there should be no strings attached to the proposed public sector pay award.

Jane McConville told UTV's View From Stormont: "I think to be honest they’re both as bad as each other."

"If they were in my classroom we’d be having a strong chat about good choices.

"I teach the children in my classroom to be fair and to look out for other people and I think some of the adults in NI need to be fair and need to make good choices."

Ms McCormack explained that she is paid £5,500 less than a teacher working at the same grade in England and Wales, and £8,500 less than those in Scotland.

"With the cost of living… everything has gone up... I would tend to go to the supermarket on my way home and pick up reduced items so I can buy things and keep them in the freezer."

She added that she keeps working in the sector "for the people in my classroom".

"For those amazing moments when a child gets it. I turn up for them."

Schools closures are a concern for many parents, with some closing for eight days due to action being taken by support staff including bus drivers, canteen workers and classroom assistants.

Collette Hilland is a mum of four and a member of Colin Autism Support Group. Her son's school is expected to be closed for over a week.

"The teachers and classroom assistants, the schools can't run without them.

"I know they are at their wits end and they deserve pay rises and we stand with them one million percent," she told UTV's View From Stormont.

"Our frustration is with our government.

"I am the mother of a special needs child. My son suffers from Pica, a condition where he eats things like plaster off the walls, wood, paper etc.

"He self regulates by self harming, so hitting himself.

"He really loves to go to school but when he doesn't go to school those behaviours increase, therefore my anxiety increases and it does impact the whole household as my attention is solely on him and my other other children don't get the attention they deserve which is unfair."

Health is another area which will be hit by the strikes.

The chief executives of Northern Ireland's five health trusts have warned that the planned industrial action will have a "profound impact" on an already squeezed service.

Meanwhile members of Unite and GMB who operate gritters will strike for a full week.

The result, an unprecedented plea to road users from the Department for Infrastructure as temperatures plummet: travel carefully, or don't travel at all.

The Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Jayne Brady, has written to the secretary of state calling for "urgent action" and funding to be released.

"I think senior civil servants are in an extremely uncomfortable positions," said Economist Paul MacFlynn said.

"They have identified the pay pressures that are there, they know that the money should be made available, they know that the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) realises that the money should be made available, and they know that the Treasury has made that funding available to the NIO, and we are stuck at a political log-jam and something is going to have to shift."

Professor Jon Tonge from the University of Liverpool told UTV's View From Stormont: "People are understandably angry that Chris Heaton-Harris is acting like a game-show host, 'This is what you could have won'.

"If the £3.3bn is needed, it's needed under direct rule or power sharing," he added.

"The one consensus across the political parties and public at large is that more money is needed by yet it's made conditional upon a particular political arrangement.

"Why if one party isn't prepared to work, why does everyone have to suffer?

"The secretary of state hasn't addressed that so far."

MLAs will return to the Assembly chamber on Wednesday after Sinn Féin's successful recall petition.

The aim, to nominate a speaker but given the DUP's current position, that's unlikely to happen.

Meanwhile on Thursday, while much attention will be on the strike action - there will also be focus on the secretary of state as it's also the day when he must decide to call an Assembly election or put that decision on ice.

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