General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Nipsa to take strike vote


17/12/2007 :: Northern Ireland :: The Belfast Telegraph

All out strike action by classroom assistants caught up in Ulster's longest running pay dispute is on the cards for January, it was claimed today.

It appears as though the row - which has seen Nipsa members on strike for a total of 17 days since the end of September - is set to rumble on into the New Year despite hopes that an agreement had been reached between the unions and management.

A decision is expected to be made by Nipsa members in the coming weeks as to whether the strike should resume - which would spell further misery for hundreds of special educational needs children who have already suffered incalculably because of the dispute.

Thousands of Nipsa classroom assistants were left out in the cold after the joint negotiating committee, of which Nipsa is a members along with Unison, T &G Unite and GMB, voted in favour of management's offer at the end of last month.

As a result of the majority vote in favour of the offer, the Education and Library Boards were planning to send out letters to every classroom assistant asking them whether they want to accept the terms and conditions of the pay deal. They can then decide whether to accept management's current offer, which includes pay protection, or remain employed under their current terms and conditions.

While it is thought the Boards have set a March 31 deadline for classroom assistants to respond, anyone who accepts the offer before this date will receive their cash as soon as possible.

However, Nipsa has called on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to conduct an inquiry into the ballots and consultations undertaken by all the trade unions involved in the dispute, strongly refuting claims that a majority of classroom assistants voted in favour of the offer.

And it urged all members to seek full clarification from management before making any decision on the matter.

The public service union has claimed that other unions involved in the dispute did not just ballot classroom assistants but also included votes from other members of school staff, such as cleaners.

Patrick Mulholland from Nipsa said Nipsa classroom assistants he has spoken to since steps began to push the deal through are outraged at the way the matter has been handled by management. He said: "We can't rule out further strike action, including all out action."

John Corey, general secretary of Nipsa, said: "The trade union movement cannot stand by and allow the employers to get away with forcing through totally unacceptable changes to classroom assistants' terms and conditions when a majority of classroom assistants have not voted to accept the employers' offer."



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