UNISON Northern Ireland


UNISONS Education and Local Government committee recently met and heard a special report on concerns from members working through the covid pandemic.


New NJC pay claim

Education workers have been at the forefront in supporting children/young people during this Covid-19 pandemic. 
UNISON is consulting across all its members on a new NJC pay claim for 21/22.  We are determined to resist any Pay Freeze.  Education workers must not be taken for granted.  


School meals review

During the covid10 pandemic maintaining the school meals provision as normal has not been possible.  However, UNISON is campaigning to ensure that the school meals service is restarted as soon as possible.  We will be insisting that all catering workers jobs are sustained.  We know the best way to do this, eradicate child poverty and keep our children healthy is to extend free provision to all school children/young people. 


Update on working through the Covid Pandemic

In the Workplace

The Department of Education guidelines state “limiting attendance is about reducing the number of contacts that all of us have with people in other households.” Therefore staff should only be brought into the workplace if they are carrying out “essential work”.
This is particularly important for classroom assistants,  cleaning, transport and catering. 
If you believe you are being asked to attend school for non-essential work raise this with your line manager.  If the matter is not resolved you should put your concerns in writing to your employer and contact UNISON local reps.


Members working in Transport  

Issues continue to worry members, specifically on routes which are still operating at near full capacity.  This is a real challenge as social distancing is almost impossible and staff are highly reliant on the quality of PPE and robust infection prevention and control measures.
We are aware that these difficulties are under review.  In the meantime, if you have a specific health and safety concerns, raise this issue with your line manager.



The Minister of Education announced that there will be a roll out of access to voluntary weekly asymptomatic testing in the Special schools.
UNISON is waiting for further clarification on how this will be available in special schools.



The call from Education unions representing support staff and teachers to move them up the list for vaccination has been brought to the Minister and his officials.
UNISON has directly raised this call both with the Education and Health Department.
We have also urged the board of the Education Authority to get behind this.
Staff in special schools remind us they feel particularly vulnerable and that they need the support of vaccination to feel protected and help them sustain their commitment to look after vulnerable children.
We are expecting an official response to this very shortly.


Health and Safety in the workplace

The Education Authority has allocated Health and Safety officers to support the special schools.  There is an active line of communication, if there are any concerns they should be raised initially in the workplace and then escalated to UNISON local reps if the issues have not been resolved.

Risk Assessments

In line with DE guidance all risk assessments should be updated, staff should have access to them and should be included in making any adaptions. 
Members are entitled to access a copy of the risk assessment that is particular to your job.  All staff should be familiar with the risks and what measures have been put in place to mitigate them. If you have not been able to access the risk assessment contact your UNISON local reps.


Availability of PPE
UNISON had raised concerns about whether PPE in use is suitable in specific situations.
Further PPE has been sourced and will be delivered to the Special schools.
If you have a queries about PPE, raise this with your local UNISON rep.