Latest: Teachers’ Union to strike next Friday after 79% say YES on ballot

Education Minister John O'Dowd speaking in Limavady on February 27, 2015. Copyright Kevin Cooper

Education Minister John O'Dowd speaking in Limavady on February 27, 2015. Copyright Kevin Cooper

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Angry at the pressures incoming cuts will impose on the education system, an overwhelming majority of teachers who took part in a union ballot on Wednesday, have voted to strike next Friday [March 13].

Almost 80 per cent of teachers in Ireland’s largest teachers’ union have said they are in favour of industrial action - as many feel it is a last resort.

On Wednesday, a Cookstown-based primary school teacher told the Mail of her anger at the Education Minister’s ‘disrespect’ at a recent conference, where he was said to have told teachers ‘no amount of placard waving would stop the austerity agenda’.

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The ballot, conducted among 6,647 members of Irish National Teachers’ Organisation [INTO], resulted in a 34.45% return, a 78.67% in favour of strike action and a 97.02% majority in favour of industrial action short of strike.

Gerry Murphy, the Northern Secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, said the ballot results mean that on Friday, March 13, INTO members will stand alongside their trade union colleagues in demonstrations organised by NIC-ICTU.

“This result quite frankly speaks for itself,” he said, “John O’Dowd has told the education committee schools will likely see 500 job losses for teachers and 1,000 for non-teaching staff due to £28m cuts to his budget - Our members are saying ‘enough is enough’.

“They have had enough of the cuts agenda. They demand an end to make do with less. INTO members have had enough of their profession being ripped apart to balance the Stormont budget. They demand and expect change.”

However, Mr Murphy said there is still time for the Executive to do something about these cuts, and put a stop to any industrial action.

“The window of opportunity for those in power to alter course and agree with INTO an alternate education strategy is closing fast,” he added.

“If there is no engagement before our industrial action begins, then the responsibility for the consequences of our action will lie with those who know the cost of educating a child but not the value.

“INTO is no longer prepared to allow the teaching profession to be devalued and the education of today’s young people and future generations to be tossed on the bonfire of austerity. It is not too late for those in authority to reflect on the message coming out of this ballot.”