Public sector workers in North strike after rejecting pay offer

Proposed rise of 1.75% described as ‘slap in the face’ at time of escalating inflation

Services including school meals and transport and bin collections were disrupted in Northern Ireland on Monday due to a strike by public sector workers.

More than 2,000 members of the Unite union began a seven-day strike on Monday morning as part of a dispute over pay.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are also striking over pensions.

Unite representatives at the North's 11 local councils, the Education Authority, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and a number of schools and further education colleges are taking part in the industrial action.


It follows a vote by union members to overwhelmingly reject a pay offer of 1.75 per cent for the year 2021-22, which Unite said would amount to a pay cut in real terms after eleven years of pay freezes.

The Education Authority (EA) said on Monday approximately 100 out of 2,750 school bus services were affected, as were some school meal services.

There was some criticism of the disruption caused to pupils at special schools. Glenveagh Special School in south Belfast had to switch to remote learning as a result of the strike.

Claire Duffield from the EA told the BBC it had twice asked Unite to exempt services for special schools from their strike action, and was disappointed these requests had been rejected.

“We have specifically requested derogation in order to protect the services so that classroom assistants at Glenveagh Special School attend work and the school can remain open and not be required to go to remote learning.

“Specifically, we’ve requested protection so that the drivers who operate transport for wheelchair-based passengers can run as normal.

“We absolutely respect the right of a trade union and their members to take lawful industrial action, but it’s very disappointing when that impacts on the most vulnerable of children and young people,” she said.

The Irish Times has contacted Unite for a response.

In Belfast there was some disruption to waste and recycling collections, while in Derry and Strabane the council said it had caused "considerable disruption" to a number of services including bin collection, street cleansing and recycling centres. Some leisure centres and playparks were also closed.

Housing Executive repairs were also affected.

There were picket lines in a number of locations across Northern Ireland on Monday, including at Belfast City Hall.

Council worker and Unite shop steward John Moore said the 1.75 per cent pay rise which had been offered to workers was a "slap in the face" and an increase of at least 10 per cent was needed "to make it liveable for ourselves and the knock-on effect to our families".

“We have mortgages to pay, bills to pay, energy prices are going through the roof, food bills are going through the roof.

“We would like the [UK]government to listen to us,” he said, and suggested “they themselves at Westminster would take a pay cut instead of making the low paid frontline staff who are in hardship at the moment be forced to take pay cuts.” Additional reporting - PA.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times