“Members have also made very clear their determination to resume strike action.”

With the NIPSA classroom assistants resuming their strike action – 2 days each week until at least christmas – the Education minister, backed by her party colleague [Adds and the Education Boards], is employing emotional blackmail rather than discussing the items resolved by the Assembly. Meanwhile Eamonn McCann has been sceptical, natch, of the Education Boards’ offer and NIPSA have produced their own fact file on the terms offered. [pdf file]

When will it commence?
The employers admit they cannot answer the question.
As to what the review will do the employers say it will consider pay and grading structures. But by then (whenever this review might take place) the employers want to ensure all Classroom Assistants have signed away their 32.5 hour contract and special needs allowance entitlements.

, , , ,

  • me


    One of my family is involved in the dispute, and what I’m hearing is this. The strike is 2 days a week, but the schools are not shut. The pickets are outside the schools but are at the side of the gates so that people are not passing thru picket lines.

    The schools that are open are not fully functional, (that is where there are striking unions involved.)

    All in all not a satisory position, but at least its better than full closure. Time for the SF minister to get this sorted out in my view.

  • Pete Baker


    Thanks for the additional info.

  • Ah yes, Sinn Féin, that good old socialist party that we all know and love. Until of course when it has to stand up and be counted, in which case its senior personnel completely undermine the righteous plight of workers who provide an excellent service and simply want their pay to reflect this.

    These people aren’t losing days of pay to go out on strike for a laugh- they know more than anyone how much they are needed, so attempts by Ruane to incinuate that they don’t care about the children who are affected by this is nothing short of scandalous. Likewise are efforts by her and her cohorts to encourage blacklegs to undermine these people’s strike action.

    If these workers were striking on an issue that affected a department that was not headed by a Sinn Féin minister, their MLAs and councillors would be down to the picket lines like a shot to get their pictures taken for the local papers. However, we now bizarrely find people such as Paul Butler opposing this strike action.

    Clearly before taking a line on an issue, Sinn Féin asks itself ‘cui bono’? Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation, if the answer isn’t ‘Sinn Féin and its ministers’, then it doesn’t seem to matter what the principles or morals of the situation are- party benefit comes first.

  • Dec

    El Matador

    Instead of workers, you should probably insert “NIPSA” union members” so as to differentiate between them and the members of the GMB who’ve long since gone back to work, apparently content with the Employer’s offer.

    I thought this snippet from McCann was particualrly illuminating:

    “Under the boards’ proposed grading system, new classroom assistants won’t be entitled in future to the allowance currently paid to workers in special schools. They will be at a lower point on the pay scale to those currently in the same category.

    There’s a sense in which the GMB has got it right. The deal means no pay-cut for classroom assistants ‘now employed’. But it means a cut in pay for classroom assistants in the future.”

    Ah, so NIPSA is deeming the needs of these children as less important than the needs of an anonymous grouping who aren’t even classroom assistants yet, let alone NIPSA members. (No doubt the Derry-based employees of Raytheon will be touched by Mr McCann’s concerns for the poor worker.)

    However, don’t let any of this detract from the real intentions of your post – af eeble and band-wagon jumping party political rant.

  • lib2016

    El Matador is about to enlighten us all with a post on how local social democrats intend to back the workers, or maybe not.

  • nmc

    Eamonn McCann:

    Meeting behind closed doors, this unelected quartet of quality folk have nodded through the plan which had been rejected by the board.

    Unelected, wha Eamonn. Bit like himself then. As Dec says I’m surprised he’s got time to write an article while at the same time saving Derry from, well, Jobs and a functional Airport.

  • veritas

    What a useless minister.So much for the politics of Connolly and Larkin.Workers of the world unite(just as long as you don’t have a Sinn Fein minister).

  • ulsterfan

    The ultimate responsibility rests with the Minister.
    What has she been doing to get a settlement?
    The dispute can be settled tomorrow if she will instruct the Boards to meet the reasonable demands of NIPSA.
    Money brings to an end many disagreements.

  • harry

    sf building an ireland of equals.

    yeah.. equally fucked by the bosses.

  • bumper

    The ultimate responsibilty for this mess rests with NIPSA and their failure to hold a secret ballot. What credibility does the strike have when the GMB has accepted the same offer-f*ck all squared is the answer.

    I said it weeks ago that the well-paid NIPSA leadership was leading classrooms assistants into financial disaster amid a loss of public support.

    Sorry for them to say that I was right.

  • ulsterfan


    Too soon for you to say you were right.
    Wait until the dust settles before claiming a victory.

  • bumper

    Keep your head in the sand, Ulster Fan-you should be on the NIPSA Executive Committee with instinct like that

  • willowfield

    Shame on Catriona Ruane and her empty gestures.

    Refusing to cross a picket-line “on principle” one week – calling on the strikers to get back to work the next.


  • harry

    come all you aplogists for sf

    what is catriona ruane’s hourly rate ???

  • J_K

    Will someone explain why the GMB has balloted and accepted the offer (4 to 1 or some 1,000 in favour); and both T & G (Unite) and UNISON (headed by Patricia McKeown who I think is very credible) are in the process of balloting; yet NIPSA where only 1,000 members completed the initial ballot in favour of industrial action before the additional £15 million came into play and before the LRA talks has refused to allow its members to ballot.

    Is it because they are afraid to go back to the membership and ballot them.

    P.S I hear that NIPSA only managed to force 4 special needs schools to shut today.

  • harry

    Is it because they are afraid to go back to the membership and ballot them.

    P.S I hear that NIPSA only managed to force 4 special needs schools to shut today.

    Posted by J_K on Nov 15, 2007 @ 07:40 PM

    are you happy with yourself trying to break the spirit of people on strike for better conditions

    good work, well done

  • patrique

    The GMB represent something like 19 classroom assistants. They had 30 but 11 defected to NIPSA.

    NIPSA balloted the members and called a strike at the behest of the members. If you believe that they need a ballot after each round of “talks”, fair play to you. Does that mean Ruane and the others stand for election again as well?

    The VAST majority of assistants are in NIPSA. Unison rejected the offer as well, but the leadership are content to sell them down the river.

  • J_K

    The UNISON site has the detail on the offer. I understand that of the three KEY that the special allowances issue is balls because it is incorporated in the new pay scale.

    And while I don’t understand the 32 ½ divisor stuff totally no where have a seen anyone (with any honesty) argue that classroom assistants are somehow going to be forced to work any longer.

    Mark Langhammer has said that this demand is totally unachievable – I read (heard) elsewhere that the other 24,000 people employed by the boards work on the 36 hour basis

    The only thing I know is that I work a 37 ½ hour week.

    And simply don’t know enough about the qualifications issue to comment but surely this is not a biggy.

    I think that NIPSA have little credibility – and probably a lot less members after this – because they have behaved so badly.

    Rather than attack Sinn Féin – which after all is all this site seems to have been reduced – it might be interesting to discuss who it is that will end up paying the price for the absolute shite leadership provided by the old boys club at the top of NIPSA.

    i.e classroom assistants, children with special needs, stressed out parents BUT definitely not Corey and his clique.

    And yes I also believe that they are running by a loony bunch of SWP hacks who think that the next revolution is around the corner – nutters!

  • J_K

    Wake up – no one really gives a shit about the classroom assistants – but people do care about what they are doing in terms of trying to blackmail our society by using kids with special needs. The more of this self righteous crap the more I think that the NIPSA classroom assistants have got the leadership they deserve (i.e crap)

    There strike is practically over. The LRA talks saved them last time round (but won’t now).

    What do NIPSA want – there can’t and won’t be any further negotiation because the other 3 unions have or are balloting – and if they have any sense will accept the deal.

    They had their chance at negotiating and fucked it up.

    As for the inter-union in fighting it is a disgrace.

    Everyone knows that NIPSA broke the agreement between the unions for industrial action on the 5th of October so that they could rush out a grab the headlines.

    Notice that the other unions have been very democratic and have even refrained from attacking NIPSA in public (although the same can not be said for NIPSA).

    As far as I can see there was £25-30 million on the table and now that is up to £40 million – how much more do they want £10 million – £50 million – £100 million. Now where is that money going to come from – I know lets sack some teachers or lets stop statementing kids with special needs, or what about a freeze on maintenance or caretakers.

  • saveus

    Catch a fucking grip Ned

  • willowfield

    What proportion of classroom assistants does NIPSA represent?

  • Frank Sinistra

    Firstly, its a disgrace that a Minister from a self-proclaimed Socialist party hasn’t resolved this. Her attitude to NIPSA and legitimate worker action over an unagreed alteration to terms and conditions is pathetic.

    That said, give the hours she is likely to work and knowing what the SF salary is I’m sure she is probably on less per hour than the classroom assistants. That ain’t an excuse for letting them get shafted though.

    The buck for this stops with SF and they are failing to act in a way that can satisfy low paid, dedicated and necessary workers. What I heard on the radio this morning was anti-Union and strike breaking encouragement from the supposed Socialist Minister.

  • Frank Sinistra


    That’s all fine and dandy but Ruane is the Minister from a party that proclaims itself Socialist.

    If shinners want to sell the above anti-worker pro-employer line that’s their prerogative. Could they then stop with the Socialism pretence?

    Shafting workers is the norm for any party to the right. After PFI and water charges SF should just bite the bullet and admit to another principle, Socialism, that was an expendable tactic.

  • Frank Sinistra

    As a side issue, after all the rows about money I am personally more impressed by the battle from NIPSA to ensure Classroom Assistants are at least NVQ qualified.

    I’m surprised that the Boards and the Shinners think the job is of such little value that no formal qualification/assessment is required.

  • willowfield

    Do the Provos actually still proclaim to be socialist?

    Patently they’re not, haven’t been for years, and possibly never were.

  • J_K


    I couldn’t give a FF about Sinn Fein being socialist or not – but this crap about classroom assistants – hey wake up there’s loads and loads of low paid workers not just here but everywhere around the world – who is looking after our old people (or not), look at who is cleaning our hospitals (or not) how much are they being paid?

    Does this matter?

    Does it affect the fabric of our society?

  • Frank Sinistra


    It amuses me no end to think of the difficulties de Brún and McDonald must face in the hard left European GUE/NG group trying to explain increasing taxation on the poor, privatisation of the public sector and shafting workers. I’m sure die Linke, AKEL, PCI, Rifondazione, Synaspismos etc. (true Socialists) are wondering how the debate they had on accepting them over armed struggle has become a debate on if they are even a centre left party nevermind Socialists.

    I’d expect a SF shift in Europe next term to a grouping more in keeping with their actions rather than rhetoric.

  • Frank Sinistra


    It does affect the fabric of our society. That’s the point. Well to a Socialist anyhow.

    Hopefully, this SF Socialism myth is finally being nailed as the lie it is.

  • J_K


    Even people who don’t call themselves socialists know it does. That’s the point. I’ve no interest in some debate about ideological purity – it didn’t do anything for the left in England and paved the way for Blair.

    Does is matter what SF call themselves – or even if they are socialists (or aren’t).

    It won’t do anything for classroom assistants, hospital cleaners or care workers.

  • harry


    can we also nail this myth or rumour that sinn fein is a republican party ??

  • Frank Sinistra


    You can only tell the electorate one thing and do another for so long.

    Integrity in the eyes of your voters is essential. Selling Socialism but delivering the opposite will eventually have a cost. Hell, being willing to get in bed with FF cost them a chunk of their 26 county core.

    No skin off my nose. I’ll oppose any right-wing party as strongly as the next just in this case the extra deceit of claiming Socialism needs nailed.

    I’m a Socialist Republican, always was, always will be. SF used to claim they were too. That Socialism is now off the radar, I don’t know what you’d call their ideology? Any old Republicanism? Even that?

  • A navvy writes

    GMB balloted classroom assistants, cleaners, drivers, groundsmen and caretakers! The union has no idea how many of its members are classroom assistants so they balloted everyone involved in the education sector!
    T&G;only have 20 classroom assistants out ots membership of drivers, cleaners and caretakers – its officials have said they were split 50/50. And, because of this, it would not take strike action or commend the new offer.
    Unison are in the process of balloting its members. The result should be known by the end of this month.
    The ATL, which has 50 members, is not part of the bargaining unit. And it was imprudent of its leader to say ‘grab it while you can’ just so he can try and force his way onto the current four-union joint bargaining council.
    NIPSA already had a ballot and more than 1800 out of 2,500 took part in the democratic process with a 93% majority in favour of strike action.
    Since the strike, NIPSA has gained nearly 1,000 new members!
    The new offer honed in on the 32.5 hour divisor (paid to BOTH teachers and classroom assistants) – the bosses wanted to buy out classroom assistants historical terms and conditions.
    And, also as part of the ‘new deal’ it also meant that the back pay owed to members over 12 years or whatever length of servie individuals had, would be changed retrospectively from 32.5 hours to 36 hours. This meant people losing out financially for their past work and in the future!
    Something which i find morally reprehensible but also needs to be tested in the courts.
    It was a no-gain situation for classroom assistants.
    No wonder the NIPSA rank-and-file classroom assistant members have held firm.
    The Education Minister also needs to answer this question – What has it cost the public purse to pay for ‘private consultancy’ firms in league with specialist Sinn Fein ministerial appointed advisors in running her propaganda machine? Sometimes press statements are coming out of Connolly House and not from the boards’ or the Department of Education offices – oops a slip up there in the well-oiled machine.
    Catriona has done well in turning about face over her original support for the classroom assistants.
    After telling them to ‘Stick it out’ she’s now told them ‘To stick it!’ With her ‘special advice team’ trying to personally blacken the NIPSA leadership and lecturing on trade union democracy.
    NIPSA is lead from the bottom up it’s not the other way round like the GMB, who coincidentally are stony broke and could not afford for its members to go on strike.
    GMB is that broke that it couldn’t pay its membership fee to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions earlier this year and, therefore, not allowed to join the 2007 May Day rally. GMB has also been forced to sell its Belfast HQ to raise much needed cash.
    A strike was the last thing it wanted – it couldn’t afford to pay strike pay of £10-15 per day. What a shambles our GMB brothers and sisters are in with having to put up with incompetent leadership in the north.
    Also, on the democratic front, not so long ago SF consulted its members on supporting the PSNI and joining the policing boards – but not one vote was taken in a secret ballot if I recall.
    Bravo sister socialist Catriona – it’s a brave new world we are in or is it the new 1984.
    It’s all ‘news speak for me’.
    But, with nearly 4,000 out of the 7,000 classroom assistants now in NIPSA maybe it is time for the union leadership to take up Catriona Ruane’s ‘ballot cudgel’ and re-ballot its growing membership.
    What will she and her ‘specialist cronies’ do then?
    If I were NIPSA I’d take this chance to reverse the fall in popular public support and ram the results home.
    It would take out the emotional words the Minister is stoking behind closed doors but mouthed by her ‘insiders’ and the boards’ chief spokespersons. How quick they are to adapt to their master’s call.
    But, if the NIPSA classroom assistants vote goes the other way!
    Well that’s democracy at work.
    The classroom assistants are in charge of their own destiny.

  • Frank Sinistra


    Sure FF say they are Republican, the SDLP, FG, Labour even the PDs. If you are going to challenge party claims of Republicanism I’d start with the real flimsy cardboard merchants.

  • Frank Sinistra

    A navvy,

    Before bigging up NIPSA you should recall the absolute balls up its leadership made of the Civil Servant’s strike probably a driving factor in the Boards and Ruane thinking you can take them to the brink and watch them buckle.

    Hopefully the serious failings of the leadership during that strike have been learnt from, if not the Assistants will end up getting shafted once by the bosses and a second time by the Union just as thousands of Civil Servants were.

  • willowfield

    Before bigging up NIPSA you should recall the absolute balls up its leadership made of the Civil Servant’s strike

    If only one civil servant was on strike, no wonder it was a balls

  • Frank Sinistra

    Good god, I just read Paul Butler’s statement. To think I worked on his election campaigns, stood in the count centre with him and celebrated his stunning victory.

    Talk about wasted years.

    If only I knew how to unknock doors and uncampaign.

    A strike breaker, didn’t mention that one to me at any point. Thank god for boundary changes.

  • saveus

    Frank, I too anm totally embarrassed to be connected to Sinn Fein tonight, I never thought that I would see the day the THATCHERITE bile would be spewed from the mouth of a SF member never mind Minister or MLA.
    A further example of the disrespect with which the leadership treat the membership, the internal party “line” on this debacle is a disgrace, Heads should roll Catriona should be “suspended without prejudice” and her “advisors” sacked.

    Ned I never thought I would hear such bullshit from you!!

  • patrique

    Could I suggest you all read “A navvy writes” comments, as it is spot on.

    The Government are using the special needs kids as hostages, not the union.

    Ignore Bumber, he/she knows nothing about employment law. To have a strike you need a ballot. If it was anyway dodgy, the board would simply sack all the strikers. Therefore NIPSA must have done it right.

    And NIPSA have had balls ups in the past. Padraig Harrington ballsed up the open many times, but got it right this year. So have NIPSA.

  • Frank Sinistra


    The above does sound like Ned.

    (just in case it is I’ll save him the hassle of having to ask local shinners who I am – we bumped into each other at Stormont on Tuesday, you were with Michelle, I was working to support members of my community, you clearly didn’t know I’d moved on – the above spin is shameless)

  • Frank Sinistra


    Once you lead them out you only get it right if they go back in satisfied all/most of their demands have been met.

    Going down to 2 days per week strike action seems like the start of another NIPSA bottling session.

    Now is not the time for binking and NIPSA seem to have twitchy eyes again, exactly what the Boards, Ruane and SF will be banking on.

  • veritas

    Sinn Fein double standards,is anyone surprised?

  • railist

    time for your diazepam and a lie-down now Frank…

  • Frank Sinistra

    And out comes the slabber. I take it the shinners have abandoned defending their position now?

  • tweedledee


    The strike is 2 days a week, but the schools are not shut. The pickets are outside the schools but are at the side of the gates so that people are not passing thru picket lines.

    That’s a waste of time. You have to have a line, and you have to shame those who would cross it. If the teachers went out they’d be closed. Shut them down.

  • tweedledee


    “Under the boards’ proposed grading system, new classroom assistants won’t be entitled in future to the allowance currently paid to workers in special schools. They will be at a lower point on the pay scale to those currently in the same category.

    There’s a sense in which the GMB has got it right. The deal means no pay-cut for classroom assistants ‘now employed’. But it means a cut in pay for classroom assistants in the future.”

    It’s called a 2-tier system, and unions the world over are resisting it. It is divisive, and it is unfair. There’s a principle called “Equal Pay For Equal Work”, and it is considered a principle, so much so that the United Nations decided it was a human right, and included it in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    [quote]Article 23.

    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

    (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

    (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

    (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.[/quote]

  • Writing from England I’m a bit surprised that no-one has recognised that essentially this is all a scam to get money off the English taxpayer. And by and large the English taxpayer doesn’t want to pay. Also I can’t see what’s socialist about this or any strike – more like green fascism.
    By all accounts the gravy train in NI has run out – now you’re all on your own. Good luck. Perhaps you can get Bertie Ahern to show his well-known generosity to you.

  • Alex S

    Do socialists not care about the children caught in the middle, from reading some of the bloggs above it would seem there are not meant to

  • harry

    oh will some one please think of the children

  • Redhaze

    Alex S,

    I must say for someone professing to have a child in a special needs school, you sure don’t have much faith in the intentions of those tasked with educating them.

    You are asking if no-one thinks of the children? I personally know that teaching assistants, particularly those in special schools, have immense feeling for the children they work with. It is a very difficult job they do and from what i’ve heard they do it very well.

    Of course they care about the children – don’t be so bloody daft.

    However, this is their livelihood. This is how they pay their bills, earn a crust…get it?

    They are entitled to better treatment and its a scandal that a SF Minister is not providing it.

    This emotional blackmail is a bit played out. This has been attempted by every boss and every right wing government. Blame the workers, they are inconveniencing your way of life, to hell with their way of life.

    What encouragement is there for essential workers/care workers these days?

    No matter the treatment they must just suck it up?

    To hell with the rights of strike or protest if it incoveniences others?

    The children have rights and so so the workers, neither of which are respected by the bosses or the Education Minister.