Teaching unions in Northern Ireland expect 'some industrial action' to continue to summer

Teaching unions in Northern Ireland have told UTV that some industrial action is likely to continue into the summer term due to a delay in funds being approved towards a pay deal which they have accepted.

INTO, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU and UTU members voted in favour of a pay offer put on the table by the Education Minister last week.

The Department of Education is responsible for taking forward that information to the Department of Finance for approval, however UTV understands there was a delay in the transfer of that information.

Approval for funding was given on Thursday and the final pay offer is now expected to be ratified on Tuesday 9 April.

Teachers in Northern Ireland have not had a pay increase for three years.

The pay offer accepted by the five main unions in mid-March includes an increase to newly qualified teachers starting salary of £30,000, with other teachers getting a cumulative 10.4% pay rise plus £1,000 consolidated pay. Unions told UTV that while they welcomed Thursday's funding approval announcement, they had expected to ratify the deal with the Department of Education on Tuesday 26 March.

Mark McTaggart of INTO described it as a "good day now that the money has been made available to settle the deal" but added that "it has taken longer than it should have".

"We expected that the deal would have been signed on Tuesday but that wasn't available to us as the Finance Minister hadn't had the opportunity to sign the deal off," he claimed.

"The industrial action will continue until at least the 9 April when the deal is actually signed off," the INTO representative added.

"We would prefer not to be on industrial action, teachers don't want to be on industrial action.

"You can't expect teachers to go straight off industrial action, there are parts of industrial action which will take slightly longer to come off.

"There are part of the industrial action where teachers were working to rule, so they won't be changing that, so in reality, it won't be until the summer term, after the summer holidays, for action to stop completely."

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, the Education Minister Paul Givan said he was "pleased that the Finance Minister has approved the teachers' pay awards for 2021, 2022 and 2023".

"This settlement, once ratified after the Easter school break, will see the end to all industrial action by teachers and school leaders which has been ongoing since May 2022."

He added: “I have made it clear from the outset that my highest priority is to ensure that the teaching profession is paid at a rate which recognises the value of the profession, and this is a very positive step in that direction.”

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