General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

 
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Assistant strike ‘will close schools’

09-10-2007

The Irish News

Schools across Northern Ireland will have to close indefinitely until the classroom assistant dispute is resolved, a trade union has said.

Nipsa general secretary John Corey said only a revised offer from the Education and Library Boards would lead to progress in the dispute over pay and conditions.

An all out strike has begun involving the union's 3,000 aggrieved classroom assistant members.

"The employers have to shift. So far they have produced an offer which was a feeble measure attempting to buy off classroom assistants," Mr Corey said.

"The 3,000 assistants we represent are not prepared to accept such a cut in their back pay or the fundamental change to their terms and conditions."

The five boards have once again re-stated their "fair and final offer" which is being considered by three other unions representing classroom assistants.

Their chief executives insisted there will be no increase in working hours for any classroom assistant and no pay cut for anyone currently employed as a classroom assistant.

They also said every classroom assistant will benefit from the additional £15 million in the form of a lump sum payment, with an estimated 50 per cent receiving back-pay as a result of the job evaluation exercise.

A spokesman said those who will benefit most currently work in the special schools.

The action is threatening to close special schools across Northern Ireland.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane said "significant progress" had been made in recent negotiations and three of the four unions involved were consulting members.

"In light of the improved offer of 28th September, I would call on those engaged in industrial action to desist from any action that places the burden of the disagreement on to those children and families who most need help," she said.

"I want to reiterate that I have the utmost respect for classroom assistants and the job that they do.

"I am aware that Management Side has also issued an open letter to all classroom assistants explaining in detail the full terms of the offer.

"I would urge everyone to give the offer their full consideration.

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