Education trade unions work together for safer schools after the Pandemic

1 May 2020


Speaking on behalf of the NIC-ICTU Education Group after its discussions on the impact of Covid-19 across the NI education system, its Chair Denise Walker commented:

“Trade unions representing education support service workers welcome the assurance by the Education Minister Peter Weir this week* that “no decisions have been taken by the Executive on relaxation of the current lockdown, and when decisions are made, they will be based on expert scientific and public health advice.”

“We further welcome the Minister’s pledge that his “Department will consult and engage with all relevant parties, including school leaders and trade unions on behalf of staff as this work progresses.”

“Trade Unions representing principals, teachers and support staff had a lengthy and rewarding discussion on the staggering scale of disruption caused to our education system by this Pandemic, while acknowledging that this crisis has exposed many of the underlying problems we face.

“There is a common determination among all unions that their members and the children they are entrusted to educate cannot have their health endangered by re-opening the schools before key measurements are taken and precautions fulfilled.

“We are supportive of the Engagement Forum and its work to ensure that presently functioning workplaces are safe, and the work it is engaged in drawing up guidelines for a wider return to work and opening of public services.

“In particular, there must be adequate testing and contact tracing, and PPE available. There must also be a thorough evaluation of the mass experiment in remote learning, in particular how this impacted on children from more deprived backgrounds.

“There also needs to be serious examination of the consequences of the crisis on the mental health of children as well as education workers.

“The trade unions representing those education workers are drafting a document detailing our concerns and proposing measure aimed at ensuring that when schools re-open, they function safely and fairly for each child.”

*See correspondence between Education Minister Peter Weir and INTO Northern Secretary Gerry Murphy, who is also Chair of NIC-ICTU and ICTU President.

NOTE: The NIC-ICTU Education Group is made up of teaching and support staff unions organising in the education sectors.  It meets regularly to examine and a common strategic approach to issues affecting teaching and support staff unions. Denise Walker (GMB) is currently the Chair of the ETUG and Maxine Murphy-Higgins (NASUWT) is vice-Chair.