“The sooner the Boards or the Department start talking seriously to us about this dispute..”

Today sees the start of an all-out strike by NIPSA members in the classroom assistants dispute. The BBC report notes that “There are no more negotiating talks planned.” Still no sign of that dose of realism being insisted upon either. NIPSA statement here [pdf file] Adds Via the Sinn Féin website, the Northern Ireland Executive’s Education minister has issued a statementAnd the official website catches up.

“In light of the improved offer of 28th September I would call on those engaged in industrial action to desist from any action that places the burden of the disagreement onto those children and families who most need help.”

From the NIPSA statement

NIPSA General Secretary John Corey said:-

“If the employers and the Department think that Classroom Assistants represented by NIPSA are going to accept the current offer they are far mistaken. The massive support for the 4 days of strike action over the last two weeks confirms the determination of Classroom Assistants to defend their existing employment rights.

Classroom Assistants are absolutely justified in taking strike action which is their fundamental right. To date the Boards and the Department have failed to face up to the reality of the need to engage urgently with NIPSA to resolve this dispute so that Classroom Assistants will return to work.

That failure has all the appearances of the Boards and Department being prepared to sacrifice children’s education to try and impose changes to Classroom Assistants’ contracts of employment and cut pay rates. The sooner the Boards or the Department start talking seriously to us about this dispute the sooner schools can get back to normal.”

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  • I’ll repeat my reply to middle-class taig on last week’s thread as I doubt many will read it there, and it is relevant:

    We’re over here in the real world. Do you want to come and join us?

    Oh, the Alliance are starry eyed, Cultra-inhabiting idealists who don’t live in the real world. That’s the oldest gambit in the book.

    You choose to respond to a serious issue of substance with a one-line epithet, which shows the weakness of your own argument. You seem to assume that fragmented government delivering poor services is normal and acceptable, and has no real world consequences. Sadly, it does have real world consequences, as this strike demonstrates.

    Proper collective responsibility shouldn’t be a controversial issue; I don’t know of any other government in the democratic world that operates without it. It’s Paisley and McGuinness’ responsibility to deliver it. If you don’t think this is a problem then, with the greatest of respect, you don’t know much about government.

    That was a srange comment. You seem to imply that nationalists would necessarily be angered by calls for integrated education. I’m not sure why you think that’s so.

    Read up the thread before jumping on that high horse. This is a long-standing argument between Kensei (a confirmed integrated education sceptic) and I; I have no trouble acknowledging the strong support given to the integrated education movement by many nationalists and republicans. Nor do I see why you would imagine that I would.

    start with some variation on the “everything would be fine if we could only close down the catholic schools” gambit.

    Balls. You obviously don’t have a clue about what you’re talking about. CCMS are closing the schools because of falling rolls. The question in whether you provide replacement provision in Catholic schools some distance away, or in an integrated facility in approximately the same location. If you look at the history of loyalist intimidation in somewhere like Antrim, it doesn’t take you to be paranoid to wonder about the sort of message that is sent out by having nowhere in the town where Catholic children can attend secondary school.

    The “Southern Shinner interloper” gambit. Elegantly done. Where was she before? Some other country?

    This wasn’t remotely in my mind when I typed that, and a long with the rest of those alleged insults, is a product of your fevered persecution complex. Sinn Féin are in charge here. No-one is being persecuted. Democracy requires that they be held to account. A Minister being asked a difficult question is not exactly Kristallnacht.

    So not crossing a picket line is a Marxist platitude. Grief.

    When you are simultaneously shafting the strikers as a government Minister, it’s worse than a platitude. But thank you for confirming my comment that some Slugger hacks would defend the Shinners if they said the moon was made of green cheese.

    Face it, Catriona is out of her depth, she’s only there because she’s being groomed for South Down at the next Westminster election, there are far more talented people left on the Sinn Féin back benches, and so far she’s making a right cock-up of her job.

  • patrique

    In the debate in Stormont it was proposed to honour the classroom assistants demands. This was proposed by Dawn Purvis, and Dawn Purvis was the only one to support it.

    All of the parties claim to support the assistants, but they are unwilling to pay them, for fear of the old “setting a precedent” and then having to pay all public and civil servants at a later date.

    So this dispute is not about Ruane, or Sinn Fein/DUP/UUP, Alliance or whatever. It is about offering the classroom assistants a pay cut, after 12 years of negotiations.So could we please forget about tribal politics.

    Support the assistants now, before it is too late for all of us. “An injury to one is of concern to all”.

  • Pete Baker
  • David

    3 Threads……….
    Go to the sectarian issue threads and there are bucket loads.
    We have the most serious housing problem in our history and the minister responsible is focused on the……UDA.
    Special Needs kids are now into week two out of school and the minister responsible is focused on……….the Irish language.
    Welcome to the new old politics. And they say the rest of us have to move on.

  • patrique

    I hear rumours that some Catholic schools are asking parents to scab. This is outrageous, they could all be sex offenders for a start. The strikers should take out the pope as a warning.

    At least then people might start looking at this dispute, “Are Catholic/Protestant schools scabs etc, and maybe some of us will look at the issues.

  • MacAedha

    The thing that people seem to forget or not realise is that the classroom assistant strike is not for more money but to retain the wage we are being paid at present. The board wish to cut our wage by approx. 10% (by working out our wage on a 36 hr week as opposed to the 32 1/2 its worked out now on) and do away with recognising our qualifications.
    Also other jobs in the education sector have been evaluated but when it comes to the evaluation of classroom assistant posts (jobs mostly done by women) we are threatened by wage cuts.

  • Sean Og

    This dispute is effectively over it’s just that the class room assistants and NIPSA don’t realise it yet.

    They have played there best card – all out strike – and it isn’t working. Everybody (except the poor children) is getting on with life and the strike is being ignored.

    NIPSA has been trying get various groups of members to go on all out strike for a number of years.
    The civil servants were too smart to vote for it. The classroom assistants aren’t that smart.

    Next week the other unions will accept the deal on offer. Then the NIPSA members will start to drift back. In 2 weeks time there will be a few holds outs refusing to accept reality.
    If this strike fails, as we all now know it will, I hope the NIPSA leadership consider their positions.
    They will have caused considerable hurt to disabled school kids and cost low paid members 2 or 3 weeks wages for nothing in return.

  • MacAedha

    so what will happen to the ‘poor kids’ when these well trained (although not recognised for it) classroom assistants realise, that with a 10% cut in wages they can’t afford to stay in their chosen career? Oh thats when they’ll leave for pastures greener- say Tesco, they pay more per hour and you get a percentage discount in your shopping- and what will replace them? An army of 17 year olds who don’t have the experience to carry out the job effectively, but who the board will be able to pay scalpers and treat whatever way they choose.

  • Sean Og

    Maybe you are right MacAedha and maybe the well trained (what is a NVQ anyway?) assistants will leave to work elsewhere.

    Do you accept that the strike is lost?
    Staying out for another day, week or month isn’t going to change the result. NIPSA has played is best card and haven’t won the trick.

    BTW the employers and the other Unions all agree that there is no 10% cut in wages so where are you getting that from?

  • MacAedha

    An NVQ level 3 childcare and education, is a qualification that the education and library use as criteria for job selection, in other words when advertising a job they use the terms ‘NVQ 3 essential’ but for evaluation purposes they won’t recognise it. I hope I’ve simplified this enough for you? As for the wage cut, if your wages are worked out on a on a 32 1/2 hour week then your employer informs you that he will be working out your wages on a 36 hour week, in my maths book that counts as a decrease in wages. As for the boards saying we will not loose money, that is a lie.

  • Sean Og

    As for the boards saying we will not loose money, that is a lie.

    I heard a spokeswoman for the Boards on Radio Ulster confirming that no one faces a pay cut. It sounded like a very clear guarantee to me. If it is lies why do all the other unions believe it?

    You haven’t answered my question. I’ll ask again. Is the strike lost and will NIPSA members have to go back to work in a week or so having gained nothing? Is that a simple enough question?

  • MacAedha

    I feel if the classroom assistants have to go back to work having gained nothing society has let them down. These people are committed who individuals love their jobs and are concerned about leaving the children they work with.