Unite the union members working for the Education Authority in Armagh – and across Northern Ireland – have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action.
It comes on the back of the Department of Education’s failure to implement a pay and grading review offered as an alternative to the “very poor pay increase for the 2021-2022 year”.
The union has lodged notice for seven days of strike action commencing from Thursday, June 15.
The strike will involve more than 700 workers and result in significant disruption at schools across Northern Ireland.
Unite’s membership includes school bus drivers, escorts and maintenance workers, catering staff, classroom assistants, playground supervisors, school administrative staff, cleaners, building supervisors and ground maintenance staff.
The ballot was taken in response to the failure of the Department of Education to fund a pay and grading review in which Unite the union had engaged at the invitation of the Education Authority.
In engaging with that process, the union brought to an end a campaign of industrial action for a pay increase by Education Authority workers in 2022.
The pay and grading review reached a consensus on a business case which would see significant increases to the pay of Education Authority workers; however, when it was submitted to the Department of Education by the Education Authority it has not been implemented – primarily as a result of the punitive budget set for the Department by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
The General Secretary of Unite the union, Sharon Graham, challenged the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to provide funding to redress the low pay of education workers.
“Chris Heaton-Harris has set a completely inadequate budget for Northern Ireland’s public services,” said Ms Graham.
“He has left education workers with no alternative but to strike to defend themselves.
“It is totally unacceptable that a pay and grading review will be denied to Unite the union members as a result of a punitive budget set by the Secretary of State. The Education Authority workers can be guaranteed the full support Unite in their fight for decent wages and to safeguard education services in Northern Ireland.”
Kieran Ellison, lead Regional Officer for Unite in the Education Authority workforce, added: “The fact that 94% of education authority workers voted for strike action confirms the strength of feeling within our membership. We are not going to accept more of the same. Unite has notified the employer of our intention to initiate seven days of strike action commencing Thursday, June 15 and continuing weekdays until Friday, June 23.
“Responsibility for the heavy impact that this strike will have resides squarely at the feet of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris who must now review his punitive budget and deliver for the education authority workforce.”