Hundreds of education support staff across Northern Ireland are to stage eight days of strike action beginning next week, a union has said.
About 800 employees of the Education Authority (EA) are due to take part.
Unite the union says it has served notice to the EA of further strike dates over the next three weeks.
The workers will take eight days of strike action including three days next week – Wednesday, 17th January, Thursday 18th and Friday 19th.
Next Thursday’s industrial action will coincide with a generalised day of action by public sector workers over an outstanding pay award.
Teachers, nurses, health workers, education support workers, police staff and civil servants are among those who are to take part in the largest planned strike in recent times in Northern Ireland.
Further strike action by Unite members in the EA will take place on Wednesday, January 24th, Thursday 25th and Friday 26th and Thursday, February 1st and Friday 2nd.
It will involve staff working across school bus transport, catering, admin, cleaning and classroom assistants. The strikes are likely to cause significant disruption across many schools.
Unite says the industrial action represents an escalation of ongoing industrial dispute seeking implementation of a pay and grading review, which will help address the chronic issue of low pay among education support staff.
The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The funding to deliver the pay and grading review is available but it is being withheld by the secretary of state for Northern Ireland. It is disgraceful that workers’ pay is being used as a political bargaining tool.
“The school support staff have the full and continuing support of Unite in their struggle to improve pay and secure fairness.”
The NJC pay settlement of 2018 instructed that there should be a pay and grading review but this was not implemented.
Following strike action by Unite members in the Education Authority in 2022, a consensus between unions and employer representatives was reached for its implementation but has not been delivered since.
Lead regional officer for the Education Authority Kieran Ellison said: “The Education Authority was instructed to implement the pay and grading review in 2018 but it has failed to deliver. This has already resulted in strike action in 2022.
“Members have been waiting far too long. We need to see delivery for our members. This review should provide a fair and equal pay structure but also a much needed improvement for some of the lowest paid workers.
In December, the Stormont parties were told of a £3.3 billion financial package to accompany the return of devolved Government – including money to make an outstanding pay award to public sector workers.
An NIO spokesperson has said the Secretary of State and the UK Government “have no authority to negotiate public sector pay”, and said the financial package will remain on the table until a new executive is formed to allocate it.
Written by: weemang