Classroom Assistants Strike

The spectacle of classroom assistants being forced to take to the streets in pursuit of a decent wage deal is sickening – especially as it has taken more than 10 years for them to be made any kind of an offer. Now, with the NIPSA members on all-out strike, the big bullies have moved in.

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The Belfast Telegraph reports in their story, “School strikers told: deal is fair and final”, that:-

Education bosses last night insisted an offer made to thousands of striking classroom assistants over a week ago was fair and final. A spokesman for the five boards stressed that there will be no increase in working hours for any classroom assistant or pay cut for anyone currently employed as a classroom assistant.

Now, I don’t know about you but I doubt if any other group of workers in the country would accept an offer such as that which has been made. The NIPSA website has the full details if you want to look at this paltry offer. But this is the wording:-

“Management Side is however committed to reaching a resolution of this dispute. Management Side therefore proposes to seek to obtain additional monies for the purposes of buying out these historic terms and conditions of service (i.e. 32.5 hours and the SNA) and will seek, subject to Trade Union Side agreement, to submit a revised Business Case to DE for approval. Management Side will seek to obtain an additional £15m for the purposes of buying out the historic terms and conditions of every current Classroom Assistant. This will result in a payment to every current Classroom Assistant – an equitable and fair distribution to be agreed. This is on top of the monies which will be allocated for the payment of arrears under the JE Scheme based upon a 36 hour divisor and the introduction of the three grades for Classroom Assistants arising out of Job Evaluation.”

So..let’s get this straight. Management is proposing buying out the contracts of all the classroom assistants for less than Watford FC would pay for a hopeless striker? They intend to do away with the Special Needs Allowance and tie the assistants to some unspecified deal -which is unlikely to be better – that will come out of a Job Evaluation exercise. How much would you bet that the Job Evaluation exercise alone will costs more than the £15 million?

Basically we have an education system managed by bean counters with a touch of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder. Psychnet says ADD is probably present if the following can be found:-

Inattention. At least 6 of the following often apply:

  • Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless errors in schoolwork, work or other activities.
  • Has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play.
  • Doesn’t appear to listen when being told something.
  • Neither follows through on instructions nor completes chores, schoolwork, or jobs (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand).
  • Has trouble organizing activities and tasks.
  • Dislikes or avoids tasks that involve sustained mental effort (homework, schoolwork).
  • Loses materials needed for activities (assignments, books, pencils, tools, toys).
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • Forgetful.

Now, given that education bosses have:-

  • failed to find the negotiating table for more than 10 years;
  • failed to pay attention to the task in hand;
  • failed to listen to the assistants and head-teachers and teachers involved;
  • failed to complete the chore of getting a settlement;
  • dislike the mental effort involved in seeking a solution to the task in hand;
  • seem to have forgotten until this strike that there is an ongoing problem.

I think we can safely conclude that the bosses at DENI and the 5 Education and Library Boards are suffering from ADD!

So, for the benefit of these wile busy people I’ll make this simple. Each of your substantial salaries would pay for, roughly, 6 classroom assistants – anyone of whom has probably had more impact to the good on children’s learning than all the product your last ten years meetings, discussions and pointless tinkering with our schools.

Now get off your collectives a**s, get into serious negotiations and get this sorted. Remember, parents choose your bosses through the ballot box and parents could send you some right ear bashings with the next lot to be elected if you don’t sort this out quick.

Here’s an idea for everyone in the meantime. Visit Write To Them.com, put in your post code, choose your local representatives and send them a message urging them to put some pressure on the education chiefs to get this sorted. You’ll be amazed how quick things will begin to move.

In the meantime, add your voice here and, if you have nothing to say in the debate why not just add your vote:-

QUICK POLL: Vote Here

Just CLICK the question below to register your vote.

Do you support the Northern Ireland Classroom Assistants in their strike action?

So.. over to you.

Any classroom assistants out their care to share their thoughts?

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17 Responses to Classroom Assistants Strike

  1. talkni says:

    Ok.. so the news is good. After the involvement of the Labour Relations Agency the employers have agreed to further negotiations to discuss pay and conditions. Yippee. The union will now consult their members about a suspension of the strike. Hopefully the employers will now make a GENUINE effort to resolve this situation. Hopefully they will NOT just see this as an opportunity to prolong the negotiations in the hope that the workers will not have the resolve to go on strike again.

    Fingers crossed for all in this situation.

    But, here’s a question. If a weekend of talking could get some movement on these issues why have the employers taken more than 10 years to get taht far? On a management level that stinks and some heads need to roll.

  2. julie says:

    We the classroom assistants have taken the decision to return to work for the sake of the children we work with. even though we have waited over 12 years we are willing to give employers another 2 weeks because of our caring nature. we love our jobs but we feel we are being downgraded because education boards say they are not including nvq level3 ,which a lot of girls have paid for themselves, .this means that over the next few years you will have unqualified staff working with special needs children, instead of the assistants who have been trained to do this job.
    the offer that is being talked about would mean that none of the classroom assistants i know or work with would get any increase in pay , never mind the back pay which they say we will, we would all have our pay protected but that is not clear cut either one document states protected for continious service but another says for the period of the review,ie.when evaluations are done the protection could change.
    management also want to buy our terms and conditions from us by making us this offer they are admitting that it is our entitlement
    WE WOULD SAY TO MANAGEMENT WE ARE PREPARED TO RETURN TO THE PICKET LINES AFTER 30TH OCTOBER DEADLINE IF THE KEY ISSUES ARE NOT SORTED OUT.

  3. talkni says:

    In all the Hallowen Hooha this story in the Belfast Telegraph, and other places, sorta slipped through unnoticed. The classroom assistants look set to reject the offer on the table, who can blame them given that it is pretty poor(!), and return to their strike action: Classroom assistants poised to strike again as talks end.

    The story says:-
    “Negotiations involving the unions, management and the Labour Relations Agency are due to come to an end today and it is understood that no major progress has been made to halt further industrial action.

    If an agreement is not reached by the end of today, Nipsa members could resume all out strike action as soon as November 5.”

    So.. what do we all feel about this turn of affairs?

  4. TINA says:

    I am a classroom assistant and ready to go back on the picket line on Thursday, i will not let management and DENI demoralise me any more. I have worked in this profession for 10 years. I love my job, over the years I have happily taken on any extra training and responsibilities my school has asked of me and did it willing, so why can’t they get on with job evaluation and place people on the wage they should be on according to their role and responsibilities. Every other worker across the boards has had this done and their terms and conditions were not under attack as part of it. Ask yourself why this is. Someone finally put batteries in the calculator and realised that this would cost money and then they started back tracking. In a letter i received from SEELB it states ‘the past is the past and can not be changed ‘so there it is in black and white leave my terms and conditions alone and get on with the matter in hand JOB EVALUATION!

  5. talkni says:

    Thank you for that comment and insight Tina.

    Tell me, do other classroom assistants you know feel as strongly as you do?

    What’s the hardest thing, for you, about having to take this action?

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