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Unison suspends strike ballot to consider offer

03-10-2007

The Irish News

The classroom assistant dispute took a new twist last night when a trade union suspended its planned ballot for strike action to consider the latest offer.

Unison, one of four unions involved in the conflict, was planning to ask its classroom assistant members to consider an 'all-out' strike.

The ballot has been put on hold, however, and the union now plans to consult all members on the package proposed by employers last week.

Only one union's members have taken strike action. About 3,000 Nipsa members are now in the middle of a three-day stoppage, which came after the union rejected the latest offer.

A panel representing Nipsa classroom assistants unanimously rejected what employers had called a "significantly improved offer".

Members had spent the weekend considering the new deal tabled by employers in an effort to end the long-running pay dispute.

School workers have been unhappy at plans to change how their hourly rates are calculated, as well as the removal of allowances paid to those working with children with special needs.

Failure to resolve the dispute dating back around a decade means about 7,000 staff are now owed millions of pounds in back payments.

Classroom assistants formed picket lines at school gates yesterday.

The walkout forced some special schools to close while the parents of some pupils at mainstream schools chose to keep their children at home.

Nipsa has said that its members will take indefinite strike action from October 8 if no resolution is found.

The dispute had looked set to intensify with Unison saying it too was considering strike action but last night the union said it was postponing its ballot until it heard from its members.

Observers have suggested that Unison's postponement of its ballot is further evidence of a split in the unions' ranks. Last week the GMB union, which also represents classroom assistants, criticised Nipsa for taking strike action.

However, Unison's Lily Kerr last night said that there was a duty to seek members' views before deciding whether to take industrial action.

"Unison is a member led union and members will make the decision. They may say that this is not enough and if they do, the ballot will go ahead," she said.

"We have an obligation to put this offer to our members. However, this is the same offer that was made before the one day strike last week."

 

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