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GMB Union, which represents more than 3,000 school staff in Northern Ireland, has warned of further industrial action after the Education Minister ‘offered no money for pay’.

The union, which represents classroom assistants, kitchen staff, bus drivers, cleaners, admin workers and others issued the statement after they met with Education Minister Paul Givan at Stormont yesterday (20 February) as part of the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC). The JNC comprises four unions NIPSA, UNISON, GMB and Unite the Union.

GMB Union stated that the Minister made it clear that within the current public sector pay budget of £684 million there was nothing to address the pay and grading review for school staff.  They will now go back to members, with a view to taking further industrial action.

Jim Donley, Regional Organiser, said: “GMB members across the Education Authority are some of the lowest paid in the country.

“This news will be another blow to workers who have been campaigning since 2018 for an end to the mismatch between grades and responsibilities.

“Previous Stormont Executives have failed to address this – it simply isn’t acceptable given the business case has already been agreed between unions and management.

“GMB now has no alternative now but to engage with our members with the view to taking further industrial action.”

Speaking after the meeting the Minister said: “I have made it clear to JNC members today that the resolution of all industrial action is a priority for me.

“I underlined to unions my gratitude for the contribution made by support staff to the education and lives of our children and young people. Without their outstanding dedication and hard work, those who are most dependent on the services they provide, would not receive the vital support they need and deserve.

“I very much regret the serious impact that strike action is having on the education and wellbeing of children and young people across Northern Ireland, most especially those who attend our special schools where the effect is felt most acutely.”

Paul Givan added: “I want all staff in the education sector to be paid at a fair level for the job they do, however there are significant costs associated with a resolution of current strike action.

“I am committed to resolving the issues around the business case and will be bidding for additional funding in Executive’s Budget 2024-25 to enable the recommendations from the pay and grading review to be implemented.”