Striking teachers in Northern Ireland feel their contribution to society is being dismissed as worthless, a rally has heard.
That was one of the messages delivered from the stage as hundreds of teachers and other public sector workers gathered at Belfast City Hall on a day of large-scale pay-related industrial action in the region.
Nipsa (Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance), the largest union in Northern Ireland, was joined by members of the PCS, GMB, Unite and teachers’ unions at picket lines on Wednesday.
As a result, most schools in the region were closed on Wednesday.
Courts, ports, vehicle testing centres and government offices were also affected by the action involving numerous civil servants.
Jacqui White, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers Union (UTU), commended them for stepping out of their comfort zone and showing “courage and determination” to take strike action.
“This a significant day for the teaching profession, this is the first day that we’ve all stood together and when all of teaching unions joined forces and said ‘enough is enough’,” she told the City Hall rally.
Ms White said pay rates for teachers in the region are “totally unacceptable” as she criticised the failure of the authorities to resolve a long-running pay dispute.
“The message coming to our teachers: our contribution to society is worth nothing. The ultimate insult to add to the injury already suffered,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it was not possible to make a fresh pay offer to teachers until clarity was secured on the funding allocation for this financial year.
“Active engagement has been taking place for many months between management side and teachers’ side of the Teachers’ Negotiating Committee (TNC) on a teachers’ pay settlement for 2021/22 and 2022/23,” she said.
“However, in the context of the very challenging DE budget position and the significant cost of a teachers’ pay increase, it is not possible to make a pay offer to teachers within current constraints.
“This will be reviewed when the outcome of the 2023/24 budget is known and discussions will continue between the department, other management side colleagues and the teachers’ unions.”