Article from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Classroom Assistants - Striking for a proper wage
by Janette Murdock, Classroom assistant and NIPSA activist
CLASSROOM ASSISTANTS across Northern Ireland have been forced to strike on 15 May over pay and grading. The dispute is over a job evaluation exercise that was begun in 1995. We are not prepared to put up any longer with the stalling tactics of management on this.
Classroom assistants, while being one of the largest groups of Board employees, are only now being entered into the evaluation process. Due to the huge cuts that the Education and Library Boards have incurred, management are now attempting to alter the criteria for pay and job evaluation.
Some of these alterations would include the implementation of a secretarial pay scale, based on a pro rata system that would lead to a substantial reduction in pay for the majority on whom it would be imposed upon.
Also included in management's cost cutting attempts is the removal of the special allowance paid to classroom assistants which recognises the extra duties they have to undertake, particularly in the special education sector ,including aiding the young people in personal hygiene and socialisation.
Management have attempted to make changes to previously outlined job evaluations, not due to any sense of fair play and justice towards staff, but solely for cost cutting reasons. They decided that to pay classroom assistants a fair and proper wage would cost them a significant amount of money. Allied to the shocking level of debt management have incurred as a result of their ineptitude, they simply decided to change the criteria completely to their advantage.
The ethos that exists within management that classroom assistants are and I quote, "wee wemen out working for pin money" is going to come back and haunt them more than they can possibly imagine.
Classroom assistants are not normally a militant group but we are extremely angry at the lack of progress and respect that has been shown to us during this long and exhausting series of negotiations. All we have asked for is a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and management must surly realise by now that we are not prepared to simply roll over and accept any scraps that they may be prepared to throw our way.
If the situation does not improve, further hard hitting action will be resumed in the autumn term, comprising of rolling action building up to an all out situation if required.