Article from the November 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Classroom assistants will need to strike again
By Padraig Mulholland, NIPSA Branch 517
7500 CLASSROOM assistants working in schools in Northern Ireland have been left hanging in mid air by the failure of talks between unions and employers over job evaluation.
The talks began following a very well supported one day strike by classroom assistants in June. The negotiations were proposed as a means of finding a quick resolution to the job evaluation dispute, but the end result of four months of talks has been no real progress.
Even more shocking for the workers has been the way the negotiations were carried out. When management made a "likely offer" in October, they did not even know how many workers would be affected, what the outcome of a deal would be for each worker or how much the deal would cost.
To achieve a positive result to this dispute classroom assistants will have to return to strike action. In June the vast majority of classroom assistants consulted had expressed the view that more than one day of action would be necessary to win. Unfortunately the main union involved, NIPSA, decided that only a one day strike would be called.
Classroom assistants feel let down by the unions but they have proven their ability to fight and they have shown that action can be very effective. Decisive strike action, alongside a public campaign aimed at highlighting the plight of these workers, is needed now.