Unions suspend school support worker strike action

Strike action involving non-teaching staff in Northern Ireland on Monday has been suspended.

Nipsa and GMB said their planned action on Tuesday will also no longer go ahead.

A third union, Unite, has yet to cancel its strike on Tuesday pending negotiations.

Workers in the three unions have been taking action over pay and grading.

Those set to strike included bus drivers, classroom assistants and canteen staff.

'Meaningful negotiations'

In a statement, Nipsa said the trade unions met with representatives of the Department of Education (DoE) and the Education Authority on Friday.

It added DoE representatives “indicated they are willing to engage in meaningful negotiations to resolve the pay and grading review dispute”.

“All trade unions responded by indicating their willingness to participate in negotiations,” the statement said.

Action short of strike action will remain in place and the unions will return to strike action if negotiations are not conducted "in good faith and in a timely fashion".

Negotiations will take place on Monday.

Nipsa deputy general secretary Patrick Mulholland said members expect "a just settlement that reflects their hard work and commitment".

"If this is not forthcoming, then we will return to the picket lines with the full force at our disposal," he said.

“A short window of opportunity is now in place to allow the NI Assembly to find a resolution to this bitter dispute.

"The choice is clear, a just solution or strikes and strife in our education system."

Education Minister Paul Givan welcomed the suspension of the industrial action.

“This means importantly that it will now be possible for many schools planning to close on Monday and Tuesday to open as normal," he said.

Mr Givan acknowledged "the exceptional role played by support staff right across the education sector".

He added: "I am committed to working with the unions to find a resolution and remain confident that progress can be made.

"I will work with Executive colleagues to ensure that is the result.”

The Education Authority said schools have been notified and will review whether they can reopen on Monday.

"An update on Tuesday 4 June will be provided as soon as possible," a spokesperson added.