School support staff in Northern Ireland edge closer to strike action

U.K.

Trade unions representing school support staff, UNISON, Unite, GMB and NIPSA have agreed to commence preparations for further industrial action following a fruitless meeting with the minister for education. The unions have a longstanding demand for a pay and grading review to address issues that impact on all non-teaching staff in education in Northern Ireland. While these questions have been addressed in other areas of the public sector, the unions are concerned that the mainly female workforce in education is facing the prospect of being passed over once again. While the education minister claims to support the call for a review he says his hands are tied over the question of funding. The education department was instructed to implement the review in 2018 but it is set to remain unfunded for the seventh year, leaving crucial issues related to low pay and inequality unresolved. The unions say that many education services – such as catering, classroom assistants, cleaning and IT – are facing major recruitment and retention challenges and workers feel undervalued and disrespected.

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