Teachers on strike: MLAs clash at Stormont as Michelle McIlvin’s warning about pay cuts called ‘disgusting’

Education Minister Michelle McIlvin has been urged to support striking teachers after she confirmed that teachers involved in the strike are facing pay cuts.

All unions are preparing to go on strike over wages and conditions and have reacted angrily to warnings that if they leave a union, money will be deducted from their pay.

Back in May, a NASUWT teachers’ union vote showed 81% of members voted in favor of the strike, while 98% supported the action, with the exception of the strike.

Next month, members of another teachers’ union, INTO, will vote to strike.

Ms McIlvin confirmed this in response to a recent question from the Assembly.

“Teaching conditions, including pay, are negotiated by the Teacher Negotiating Committee (TNC). The management side of TNCs includes representatives of employers, industry interests and the Ministry of Education. The pedagogical part of the TNC includes representatives of the five main teachers’ unions – INTO, UTU, NAHT, NASUWT and NEU,” she said.

“I understand that the TNC management side has evaluated the strike and determined that participation in the NASUWT action amounts to a violation of the teachers’ contractual obligations.”

The comments followed a letter to school principals warning they would have their pay cut if they went on strike.

The news has led many DUP critics to lash out at the education secretary, as her party’s MLAs are still receiving their full payroll at Stormont despite refusing to nominate a speaker and seat their ministers at the executive table.

On Wednesday in the Assembly Hall, Jerry Carroll of People Before Profit and Emma Little-Pangelly of DUP MLA clashed over the issue.

Mr. Carroll said: “This week, the education secretary ignominiously supported plans to cut wages for striking teachers who are taking action to protect their basic right to a decent wage. It’s disgusting and straight out of a Tory textbook.”

Ms. Little-Pangelly disagreed, stating that Mr. Carroll’s statement was “incorrect in fact” and asked the Speaker to ask Mr. Carroll to retract it.

“Leaving a comment on this post would be misleading the house and people of Northern Ireland. The education minister has not supported any wage cuts for striking or otherwise teachers,” she said.

Acting Speaker Alan Chambers responded, “I thank the members for their order. Their positions are fixed.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Carroll said: “The Minister for Education and her party are trying to wash their hands of this issue, but their excuses are paltry.

“The minister’s attempt to evade responsibility for this proposal amounts to, at best, tacit support for this policy. At its worst, it is an ideological attack on the workers’ basic right to strike.

“The managerial aspect of TNCs is fully within the competence of the Ministry of Education. If the minister is against cutting the salaries of the striking teachers, then I would urge her to declare it publicly. She must then take action to remove the threat of payroll deductions.

“This shameful proposal is clearly aimed at intimidating teachers and their unions.

“NASUWT members overwhelmingly supported the strike in the context of a catastrophic cost-of-living crisis. Similarly, members of the Irish National Teachers Organization (INTO) vote for action and have every right to strike to protect their standard of living. We fully support them in their fight for fair wages.”

The Department of Education was contacted to respond to Mr. Carroll’s comments.