More than 3,000 classroom assistants in Northern Ireland went on all-out strike this week.
The Northern Ireland public sector union Nipsa has said that until the issues – over changes to classroom assistants’ conditions of employment – are addressed, many schools across Northern Ireland might have to close indefinitely.
The workers have accused employers and the department of education of sacrificing children’s education to try and enforce the changes to working conditions.
Classroom assistants are striking to defend their right to have their pay based on school working hours of 32.5 per week instead of 36 hours.
A number of teachers, including those at Fleming Fulton special school in Belfast, joined the classroom assistants on their picket line.
The workers are also demanding to continue to be paid special needs allowance of £1,107 per year or 65 pence per hour and to have their NVQ Level 3 qualifications recognised.
The employers’ proposal to change the calculation of weekly working hours would cut all pay rates by 10 percent. It would cut the pay of the highest paid by over 20 percent.
In a further insult thousands of staff would receive only about a third of their back pay entitlements for the last 12 years.