Hard-pressed support staff win 4% pay hike

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Derry school bus drivers, caretakers, cleaners and administration staff are set to receive an up to four per cent wage increase over the next two years under a deal negotiated between the Unite trade union and the Education Authority (EA).

In an extremely welcome development for a group of workers who have suffered a decline in real wages when set against rising inflation over the past decade, the EA has agreed the hike but must now present a business case to the Department of Finance in order to proceed, trade unionists have advised.

Ciaran McCallion, Unite’s representative for many of the workers concerned, said it was about time a hard-working and hard-pressed cohort of workers got the pay rises they deserved.

“Support staff workers in education have had to endure a one per cent pay rise since 2008,” said Mr. McCallion.

“This has meant - taking into account inflation - that support staff have experienced pay cuts of around eight per cent over the period.

“Bus drivers, bus escorts, school caretakers, cleaners and administration staff have been living with real hardship.

“Many of these people, in reality, constitute what we would describe as the working poor,” added Mr. McCallion.

Under the new pay deal these workers are set to receive a major fillip in pay hikes across a range of salary bands.

Most, Unite estimate, will see increases of between three and four per cent over the next two years.

Mr. McCallion said the development follows Unite’s endorsement of a pay offer for school support workers, which has been agreed by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services a multi-trade union alliance.

“Recently Unite have agreed to the National Joint Council (NJC) pay offer for the years 2018 and 2019, which is a significant improvement for lower paid workers,” said the local representative.

However, he warned that the deal must yet be signed off by the Department of Finance (DF) in Belfast before the workers get their back-dated pay rises.

“The EA have accepted the NJC terms and are currently preparing a business case for DF approval.

“Unite have asked the EA to ensure that the process is completed as urgently as possible in order to get the rise into hard-pressed workers pay packets and to have it retrospectively paid back to April,” he said.

The pay rise, if and when it receives approval from DF will be the first these workers have enjoyed in over a decade.

The EA said: “The NJC for Local Government Services [who represent local government employer interests on pay, pensions and employment issues], agreed a two year pay deal with the GMB, Unison and Unite trade unions on revised rates of pay with effect from April 1, 2018 and April 1, 2019. This national agreement applies to EA support staff employed on NJC Terms and Conditions (headquarters, outcentres, services and support staff in schools).

“The agreement will result in a minimum 2 per cent increase for these staff in both years.”