SDLP East Derry MLA Cara Hunter has urged Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to intervene and prevent teachers’ strike action.
Ms Hunter was speaking as teaching unions in the North ballot members over strike action following prolonged disputes around pay and working conditions.
She urged the Minister to negotiate with teachers and unions to reach an agreement to prevent disruption in schools.
East Derry MLA Ms Hunter said:
“As pupils return to school it is deeply disconcerting that a number of teaching unions in the North are balloting for strike action in an attempt to obtain fair pay and working conditions, with the only comment we have had from the Education Minister on this pressing issue being a threat to cut the pay of the teachers who decide they have no choice but to strike.
“This matter should have been resolved before the beginning of the school term so that it doesn’t continue to hang over our teachers, pupils and their families. If Minister McIlveen had used the summer break to negotiate positively with teaching unions and seek a resolution then this matter could have been settled, but now the threat of disruption continues and mass school closures is that last thing we need, particularly with so many of our young people having their education impacted in recent years by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our teachers have been overworked and underpaid for far too long and for many the increasing pressures as a result of the cost of living crisis have been the final straw. Teachers are expected to educate and nurture our children and we can’t expect them to do this and then go home to a cold house as they worry about how they will put food on the table or pay their bills.
“Minister McIlveen needs to recognise the situation our teachers are in and the pressures they face and reach a fair pay agreement so that we can avert the potential for strike action and teachers can continue their work and pupils their education without any interruption.”