UNISON Northern Ireland


To all our members in:

- Education support services

- Controlled and Maintained schools 

- Integrated Schools 

- Voluntary Grammars 

- Irish language medium schools


Dear Members, 

We are sending this comprehensive update to all 10,000 of you on the major issue of pay improvement we have been pursuing for some time now, through the demand for a Pay and Grading Review. This demand essentially raised the need to improve how the application of NJC pay rates in all school circumstances where they are applied. While the main focus and involvement of our members has been in the controlled and Maintained schools, if successful funding should be made available across all schools. So we will be calling on all UNISON members to get involved in the next phase of this campaign. (The absence of a collective bargaining structure with voluntary Grammar, Integrated and Irish medium schools who present themselves as individual employers is unacceptable and must be ended.)


So first a big shout out for all UNISON members employed by the Education Authority who have been carrying this fight forward. Your industrial action of action short of strike is ongoing and widespread. Be of no doubt that this has led to all political parties around the NI executive table being made aware that this is a major issue that must be sorted. You have delivered over 7,000 emails to all MLAs who now declare they support your demands.


A second update from the Department of Education early this week on behalf of the Education Minister told us the following:

His appeal for full UK Treasury funding for pay improvement is being pursued through the NI Department of Finance. We all became aware a couple of weeks ago of the real big hole in the NI budget when all departments were left short of what was needed. The public sector pay fund was used to pay workers who did not get a deal in 2023. (Education workers got a NJC Cost-of-Living pay deal in 2023). There is no guarantee that this strategy will work but your UNISON Education Committee representing members across Northern Ireland have decided to allow politicians time to test their political muscle. UNISON members have had strike days in November and January and have been on action short of strike for over six months now. You have made the lost pay sacrifices – now it’s time for politicians to step up to the plate.

UNISON has told the Department of Education officials in no uncertain terms that a failure to secure funding will bring the issue right back to NI Executive table to be addressed. Equally any shortfall in Treasury funding will also remain an issue to be addressed. THAT IS WHY OUR INDUSTRIAL ACTION – ACTION SHORT OF STRIKE – WILL NOT BE LIFTED. It is continuing. UNISON members will not be going away. We made it very clear that there will be disruption to the start of a new school year. The gates could very well remain closed right across Northern Ireland.

There was discussion with other unions representing some Education support workers. We acknowledge the views of these unions on the impact their strike action might have. UNISON reps stressed in that discussion that school exams should not be disrupted at a time when there is a political channel opened up to pursue funding. We did not think it acceptable to bring a burden to bear on students, particularly those who have special educational needs and who have suffered enough under Tory cuts. 

We will not engage in public negative commentary and we equally expect the UNISON position to be respected. 

In the middle of all of this there are a number of significant issues we have started discussions with management on and which need real and early movement:

  • The collapsed differential for supervisory staff.
  • After-hours school clubs staff and their rates of pay 
  • Reform of the system of how retainer pay is applied managed.
  • Transformation of roles for Board Headquarters staff.
  • Review of the roles of class room assistants in SEND and mainstream schools.


UNISON Northern Ireland Education Action Committee