NIPSA, the union representing Education Welfare Officers (EWOs), said the escalation of issues in recent months had left members ‘exhausted’.
Education Welfare Officers are those who ‘dedicate their professional lives to supporting attendance in local schools, sorting out problems in the home to try and help children get the most out of their education’.
Alan Law, Assistant Secretary (Acting), said: “The Education Authority has failed to address our concerns and has continually failed to deliver on commitments.
“Members had expected to begin formal consultation on draft Job Descriptions in October but this agreement by the employer has failed to materialise.
“We are simply not prepared to be humiliated into begging the employer for a pay settlement which is justly due to our Social Worker members employed as Education Welfare Officers.
“The Education Authority will now be faced with 15 days of strike action commencing on 29 November, including an extensive range of other industrial action, which should leave no-one in any doubt to the determination of our members and their union to fight this pay claim.
“The attitude to date by the employer has been disgraceful and will not be allowed to continue. The challenges presented by our industrial action are entirely the responsibility of the Education Authority. We believe that this can be avoided by earnest and constructive negotiations are the earliest opportunity.”
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has backed NIPSA’s Education Welfare Officers.
She said: “I stand fully behind NIPSA’s Education Welfare Officers (EWOs) as they begin strike action today in an attempt to secure fair and equal pay with those doing similar work. EWOs play a vital role in our school community and many pupils and families would be totally lost without them, it’s time this was reflected in their pay packet.
“EWOs provide help and support to the people who need it most and make a huge positive impact on the lives of pupils they come into contact with. It’s extremely regrettable that the Education Authority was unable to come to an agreement with NIPSA members to prevent this strike action.
“Becoming a qualified social worker is no easy feat, it takes years of study and perseverance. To go through all that work and to be paid at a level below your colleagues is completely unacceptable. The strength of feeling among members was clear with over 94% voting in favour of strike action. We need the Education Authority to get around the table and reach an agreement with NIPSA so that our EWOs get the pay they deserve and can return to helping our young people.”
The Education Authority was asked for a response but not was received at the time of publishing.
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