Hundreds of teachers in Northern Ireland are gathering together in an effort to protest the “insulting” 1% pay raise they were offered this year.  All action so far has been taken during the lunch hour and after the school day had come to an end in order to continue to allow students the opportunity to learn.

The 1% raise was offered for the 2016-17 school year after thirteen months of talks between teachers unions and the North’s Education Authority resolved.  No raise was suggested for last year, causing hundreds of union members to share their concerns at school gates earlier in the week.  The offer of a 1% raise was rejected, writes Rebecca Black for The Belfast Telegraph.

Leaflets were passed out to parents and members of the public by teachers, discussing “serious funding shortages” that they say will come to schools in the next few years, as well as suggesting that they “ask their local MLA why Stormont does not put a value on education.”

In all, four teaching unions are involved in the strike action.  These include the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).  In all, 60 schools across Northern Ireland are being impacted by the situation, with hundreds of teachers participating.

The current starting salary for Northern teachers is £22,243 in addition to allowances.  Raises are offered up to £32,509 per year, although they are automatic and not performance-driven.  Teaching allowances ranging from £1,903 to £12,272 are also offered, writes Amanda Ferguson for The Irish Times.

Northern secretary for the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), Gerry Murphy, noted that teachers in Northern Ireland are paid 16% under the average amount offered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“Teachers are feeling they are being taken for granted, that their goodwill is being exploited and that in the face of ever increasing workloads they are holding together a system which is underfunded and under-resourced. None of this is being recognised,” he said.

“The freezing of their salary in 15/16 and a 1 per cent offer for 16/17 is nothing short of an insult . . . The purpose of the action is to send a signal to the powers that be that teachers are prepared to resist this assault on the profession.

UTU chairperson Avril Hall-Callaghan added that the Scottish Parliament had offered a 2.5% staged pay deal to teachers last year.  The union had requested a similar deal be considered by the education minister this year in order to move past the thirteen-month dispute, adding that teachers should not be taken for granted.

Hall-Callaghan went on to discuss the five years of cutbacks faced by teachers in Northern Ireland, being asked to “pick up the slack” for the minister.  She stated that after all they have done, it is now up to the minister to give back.

Members of the largest teaching union in the North, the National Association of Schoolmasters and Women Teachers, recently made an announcement discussing their participation in rolling strikes to begin later in the month.

Meanwhile, Minister for Education Peter Weir released a statement discussing his disappointment that the unions had chosen to take such action.  He added that pay for teachers had not been reduced, and that teachers were given what their contract entitles them to when taking pay scale progression into consideration.

“In this challenging financial climate it is important to find the right balance between protecting school budgets and protecting teachers’ jobs and delivering a fair increase to teachers’ salaries, within the parameters of NI Executive pay policy.”