Watch: Workers at Ceara Special School in Lurgan describe 'anguish' at decision to strike amid calls for fair pay

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
With ‘anguish’ and a ‘heavy heart’ workers took strike action at schools across NI - bus drivers, classroom assistants and canteen staff are among those on the picket lines.

Day One of three days of industrial action over with members of the GMB, NIPSA and Unite unions taking part. It is understood the long running dispute over pay was agreed at Stormont level but funding was not forthcoming to pay for it.

-

Read More
Cost of Living Crisis hits Craigavon Area Foodbank as shelves lay bare despite d...
Workers from NIPSA including bus drivers, classroom assistants and canteen staff, went on strike this week over pay. Pictured here are some of those on the picket line outside Ceara Special School in Lurgan, Co Armagh.Workers from NIPSA including bus drivers, classroom assistants and canteen staff, went on strike this week over pay. Pictured here are some of those on the picket line outside Ceara Special School in Lurgan, Co Armagh.
Workers from NIPSA including bus drivers, classroom assistants and canteen staff, went on strike this week over pay. Pictured here are some of those on the picket line outside Ceara Special School in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

-

Liam McConaghy, who is a NIPSA member, says they are picketing simply for a ‘fair day’s pay’. He said the workers just want what they were promised and ‘what had already been agreed’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We are well overdue a pay rise and we deserve one,” said Mr McConaghy. “The work is rewarding but with the pay the way it is at the minute people’s getting forced out of the job. It’s really just for the love of it that people stay in it. The work’s rewarding and that’s why people stay in it.”

Roy Donaldson said: “It’s great working with the kids. We get more from the kids than we give them. If it wasn’t for that, if it was to do with money, none of us would be here. We’d be working elsewhere.”

Mr Donaldson said: “All we are asking is that the promises that were made when Stormont came back – we deserve our bit as well. Everybody else has got their piece but we have been left behind. Ignored.

"Personally I was quite anguished about going on strike. This isn’t like the ones with mainstream kids – they might be quite happy with a day off. With special needs kids, it’s all about routine. It’s done with a heavy heart.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Asked what they want, and they said ‘simply reward us for the work we do and keep your promises. Fair pay for a fair day’s work’.

Mr Donaldson added: “It’s not just us. It’s those men and women who work in there with the kids – classroom assistants. They have a far tougher job than we have. They deserve a reward as well.”

“We deliver the kids to school. We maybe have only an hour on the bus with them,” said Mr McConaghy. “Sometimes that can be challenging enough. These guys in the school spend the best part of the day with them. I’m sure their job is a whole lot harder than what ours is.”

Mr Donaldson added: “While we feel we deserve a pay rise, they most definitely deserve a pay rise and promises honoured.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Patrick Mulholland, NIPSA deputy general secretary said: “The pay and grading review was consulted on and agreed with the Education Authority and should have been implemented.

“Instead, our members, and all the other low paid education support staff have been left in limbo and told there is no money to put it in place.

“These vital workers, essential to the daily operation of our schools and who provide a lifeline to the children across the country, are expected to get on with it and accept poverty pay.

“This clearly cannot continue, and a massive escalation of the strike action is likely to take place in early September if a resolution is not found urgently."

“The minister and his colleagues in Stormont need to secure the funding necessary to implement this agreed review and to start to rectify the growing crisis in our education system.”

Related topics: