Education unions call on the Minister to enter into meaningful consultation with the Trade Unions re-opening schools

11 Jun 2020

BDC BWBL home page

Speaking after the Education Minister Peter Weir set a target date of Monday 17 August for some pupils to return to school, the Chair of the NIC-ICTU Education Group Denise Walker (GMB) has stated that:  “It is now abundantly and alarmingly clear that the Minister of Education has no intention of engaging in proper consultation with trade unions.

“On Thursday 4th June, Education trade unions (representing teachers and support staff) were told by the Department of Education that student attendance from the 17 August would be voluntary on the part of schools and teachers. On Tuesday 9th June the Minister stated on a webinar with a Headteachers' union that he is giving that direction that schools will open.

“The Minister needs to understand that our teaching workforce and support staff have been working relentless to support our young people and their families through these unprecedented times. 

“Our education minister Peter Weir should learn from  the mistakes they made in England of not getting an agreement with the Unions, or the support of parents, on a safe return to work. We do not wish to see our devolved Department of Education undergo the humiliation endured by their colleagues in England after the mishandled actions and briefings from Minister Gavin Williamson.”  

The vice-Chair of the ETUG Maxine Murphy-Higgins (NASUWT) agreed and added that: “Holidays for summer 2019-20 have already been agreed in every school and should not be changed without the agreement of school based trade union representatives. 

“If schools move holidays they will be liable for costs incurred by staff who have booked holidays and will have to compensate staff by giving days off elsewhere.  This will also place pressure on our parents who may also have booked holidays for August.

“We call on the Minister to enter into meaningful consultation with the Trade Unions regarding this proposal.”

Ms Walker concluded the unions’ statement: “Consultation with schools is critical to ensure that schools can open and do so with the safety of pupils and staff as it's central criteria.

“Our schools estate means we have a variety of buildings and structures which will all need their own individual risk assessments and plans. One fit does not fit all.

“We recognise that everyone has different experiences of the pandemic. Pupils, parents and staff have all been impacted in different ways. The safety, mental health and well-being of all those concerned must be at the forefront of any decision and to arbitrarily set a date which brings both pupils and staff back during the summer recess is foolhardy.”