Frontline workers struggling to deal with rising costs yesterday gave up their tools amid growing anger over wage levels.
Employees, including class assistants, school bus drivers and city employees, were among those who approached the picket lines after declining the 1.75 percent salary offer.
The Union Unite says the wage offer “means another real wage cut and comes after an 11-year wage freeze”.
But there was some opposition to union action when the Education Authority said it had requested the release of private school services, but that request was turned down.
The education authority said about 100 of the 2,750 transport services were affected.
Claire Field, of EA, said that some of the children who can’t go to school are children with special educational needs.
“There is real frustration when there is a delay affecting some of our most vulnerable children,” he told the BBC.
Ms. Field said a private school had switched to distance learning.
He said EA has requested waivers twice for private school services and he is disappointed that those requests have been denied.
“We will continue to ramp up these requirements to try and reduce delays during the week,” he said.
“We have specifically called for detours to protect services so that Glenweg’s class assistants can participate in the service and keep the school open and does not require distance learning.
“In particular, we have asked for protection so that drivers of wheelchair passengers can move normally.”
In Bangor, staff from the Education Department headquarters in Ratjeel staged a sit-in, including Nola McCarthy.
Nola, who has worked as a classroom assistant at a private school in Glenweg for 17 years, told Belfast Live: “We have worked under a lot of pressure on the pandemic due to the lack of Covid and staffing.
It was awful and we haven’t had a pay raise in years. People can’t deal with it anymore.”
School transportation, meals, and communal services, such as fundraising, are delayed due to payment.
In a separate procedure, university employees are mobilized for pensions.
At Belfast City Council, City Councilor John Moore said the strike would last seven days.
The Unite store boss said workers need a 10% pay increase to make up for past wage freezes and a higher cost of living.
It offered politicians, not frontline workers, effective wage cuts.
“We are here today because of the 1.75% salary increase that was offered to us last year. “It was a blow to the face,” he said.
1.75% does not solve this, 1.25%, next month we will be deprived of National Insurance and hopefully we can get at least 10% to make it possible for us and have a devastating effect on our families.
Local councils and the Westminster government have to listen to the people, the low-income people on the front lines on the ground.
“It’s kind of a hit. We worked in a pandemic, we got nothing for it and now a 1.75% wage increase is totally unacceptable, and that’s another pay cut. Over the past 10 to 11 years, we’ve been left behind by about 22%.
“We have to live, our families have to live. We have mortgages due, bills due, energy prices are going up on the roof, food bills are going up on the roof.
We want the government to listen to us. Perhaps if they cut wages in Westminster, instead of forcing the currently needy and low-paid front line employees, they would have to cut wages.
The pension is a “murder,” said Michael Pierce, a professor of English literature at Queen’s University and a member of the Union of Universities and Colleges (UCU).
We are still on strike because universities refuse to make any fundamental changes to our pensions. He said the changes are huge in the sense that pensions have been cut by 30-40%.
“We are on strike for other reasons, salaries have fallen 20% in the region since 2009 and the massive workload at universities means that when they have the opportunity to give someone a permanent job, sometimes they hold it back for years. It makes it difficult for people to Make important decisions in life.
Conditions have generally worsened, but the pension issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Many people are very upset.”