Finance Minister must provide urgent update following strike announcement, says Mathison

The Finance Minister must provide an urgent update on what is being done to secure resources for a pay and grading review for non-teaching support staff in schools, Alliance Education spokesperson Nick Mathison MLA has said.

Education Nick Mathison

The Chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee was speaking after it was announced non-teaching school staff would strike for several days later in May and June. Workers in several trade unions will strike between May 20-22 and June 3-4 over pay and grading. Staff taking part include classroom assistants, bus drivers, catering staff and other support workers.

Strangford MLA Mr Mathison said it was disappointing for workers the situation had reached this point.

“It was extremely disappointing for support staff working in our schools the money required to resource the pay and grading review for non-teaching staff wasn't made available in the recent Budget,” he said.

“After the business case was only recently approved by the Minister, staff and trade unions were understandably hopeful issues affecting educational support staff would be resolved soon. This is a critical element in stabilising the education system and reforming special educational needs services. 

“This intervention is also crucial in tackling the workforce crisis and addressing the unacceptable terms and conditions for non-teaching staff. Every party had agreed without this intervention a genuine crisis in the operation of our education system was on the horizon.

“It has sadly felt inevitable industrial action was therefore likely to follow, and we are now looking at five days of strike action in May and June. This will undoubtedly lead to significant disruption across all schools, and for special schools in particular which rely heavily on support staff to meet the needs of the children in their care.

“As money was not found in the Budget for the pay and grading review, which was already delayed for a number of years, the only option available to fund it now appears to be seeking a reprofiling of monies from the financial package by Treasury.

“The Finance Minister must now provide an urgent update on what work is actively underway with Treasury to try and secure this resource, to see if the necessary reassurance can be provided to trade unions to try and see this planned action can be paused.

“It is also vital the Education Authority as employer and the Education Minister engage with the trade unions as a matter of priority to do everything possible to bring an end to this dispute - our vital education workers deserve fair pay and conditions, and our children should not be the ones punished for the failure to prioritise this pay and grading review over many years."