Northern Ireland strike FAQ

Answers for members on the 2023 strike action.

Strikes in NI FAQ

All NEU teacher members in grant funded schools (all schools except independent schools). Support staff and FE members are not on strike.

You can take part in NEU organised activities on a strike day, including joining a picket line at your workplace and/or attending one of our joint teacher union rallies.

The more visible we can make our collective action, the more effective our strike is likely to be. So please make every effort to join in these joint teacher union organised activities. Information will be distributed by email and via the Union’s website – please find out about your local activities and join in.

YES! The union doesn’t know which members voted, or how they voted, unless they told us.

Now that we have a strong mandate from members for strike action, we are calling on all eligible members to take action. It doesn’t matter whether you voted, or how you voted, you can take action.

Yes, they can both take part in strike action.

Members can take part in pickets at their own workplace. Whilst Branch and District Reps and NEU staff can attend any picket line, individual members must not attend a picket at a school at which they do not work.

Each picket should have a designated Supervisor – this will usually be one of the school reps if there are members from a number of unions. Where more than one union is represented in the school, reps should work together in organising the picket and agreeing a Picket Supervisor.

No, we are asking members to join the picket line at their own school.

Taking a half day’s industrial action does not break continuous employment.

For strike action, you will lose pay that is equal to the amount of time you strike, for 1/2-day strike = 1/2-day loss in pay, and one day strike = one day loss in pay (based on annual salary rate/365).

For example:

Strike pay loss
Level Salary One day Half day
M1 £24137 £66.13 £33.06
M2 £26045 £71.36 £35.68
M3 £28139 £77.09 £38.55
M4 £30305 £83.03 £41.51
M5 £32693 £89.57 £44.78
M6 £35277 £96.65 £48.32
UP1 £38216 £104.70 £52.35
UP2 £39630 £108.58 £54.29
UP3 £41094 £112.59 £56.29

Supply Teachers on NISTR – The calculations for supply teachers booked through NISTR is calculated on 195 days therefore a half day’s pay will be half your daily rate.

A. Very little – any loss would probably be between £1 and £2.50 a year at most for each day of action taken. All serving teachers are now building up pension in the career average scheme. Your pension is 1/57 of whatever is earned during each scheme year (from 1 April to 31 March), which is then indexed until retirement. So, you simply lose the pension you would build up for each day you take strike action.

For example, if your pensionable salary is £36,000 each day of strike action will reduce your pension by just £1.73 a year – and varies in proportion to earnings.

During the period of strike, neither the employer nor the employee makes a pension contribution as you are not paid for this period.

A scheme member (someone who pays in at the normal rate) will “bank” into their career average pension pot, 1/57th of their total actual pensionable earnings in the period from 01 April to 31 March. The amount “banked” in a day would essentially be the calculated daily rate/57.

-Salary per annumOne day's pension contribution1/2-day strike pension con.

Employees who are absent on account of sickness before industrial action starts will be assumed to be on sick leave, and therefore not on industrial action.

Most pregnant women can join a strike without affecting their maternity pay, but entitlement to statutory or contractual maternity pay can sometimes be affected by taking strike action. If you have less than a year’s service with your current employer, or if the strike days fall in the eight-week period immediately before the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth, contact NEU at [email protected] for further guidance.

No! Members are not required to inform school management of their intention to strike.

While employees are not required to tell their employers (Principal/Governing Body) whether they intend to take strike action, employers are able to ask staff in advance if they intend to strike to enable them to plan how to manage the strike. They can ask – but you do not need to answer.

You could say: ,“It’s highly likely that I will”  “I haven’t decided yet” “I’m going to speak to the Union/Rep for advice”.

Firstly, you are under no obligation to report to the Principal whether you (or members) intend to strike. However, it could work in favour of industrial relations to provide the Principal with enough information as to whether they need to shut the school or not.

DO NOT give names of individuals who are intending to strike.

DO NOT inform the Principal who the members of the NEU are.

DO NOT agree to any partial opening arrangement where members who don’t strike undermine the actions of those that do. I.e., cover dual classes.

DO explain that you can’t give a definite answer as to who is striking, as it’s a personal choice to do so (and that people could change their minds at the last minute).

DO explain that teachers who are not in a Union could join the NEU in the morning of a strike and still be protected under TU legislation to take action.

DO state that there could be significant safeguarding and Health and Safety implications if they go ahead and open the school due to insufficient staffing numbers.

That’s up to the head teacher or whoever else is responsible. They need to decide (having conducted proper risk assessments) whether the health, safety and satisfactory education of students can be guaranteed in the absence of the staff taking strike action.

Support staff unions not taking action will ask their members not to undermine our action by undertaking our members’ work.

The decision to open, restrict attendance, or close a school is for the Principal. Arguably, the safest way to proceed on a strike day is to shut the school and give the parents as much notice as possible. Partial openings can be incredible divisive amongst a school community and can alienate/victimise those members who are legitimately taking industrial action.

Under ‘The Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978’, the employer (Principal and Governing Body) in a school must take reasonable steps to ensure that staff and pupils are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. This applies to activities on or off school premises and schools will need to be mindful that responsibilities could be impacted on because of industrial action.

Safeguarding and Child Protection are always paramount, and the Principal needs to ensure that there are enough qualified professionals in school to cover all eventualities. If this is not the case and safeguarding could be compromised, then the school should not open.

NEU will normally consider it unreasonable for you to be asked:

  • to take over the work of colleagues engaged in industrial action, other than in a genuine emergency.
  • to undertake any work greater than usual or to accept additional responsibilities or duties because of colleagues taking industrial action.
  • to agree to the amalgamation of groups of pupils or students or to the division of one group between others because of colleagues taking industrial action.

In short – you should work as normally as possible – but do nothing that would undermine your colleagues' action.

Schools should not ask support staff to provide cover for, or take, classes or group activities where this would normally be done by teachers who are on strike.

Support staff should not be moved from the duties they would normally carry out to cover classes and frustrate the industrial action of colleagues.

Most schools will take a common-sense approach to strike action by teacher unions. They will not wish to antagonise staff relations by forcing one set of staff to undermine the action of others, who they must work with in proximity and on an ongoing basis.

Good managers will also respect the wishes of staff who do not wish to act against their conscience by 'strikebreaking'.

However, if in spite of the express wishes of members, a school or college attempts to force them to carry out the duties of striking teacher colleagues, the NEU school rep (or where there is no rep, the NI Office at [email protected]) should seek an urgent meeting with the head or principal.

Our ballots and action are organised in accordance with all the relevant laws. Industrial action is accepted as a legitimate means of expressing opinion and workers have legal protection against any action being taken against them selectively due to participation in industrial action.

Any member who does experience threats or pressure from their principal or governing body should contact us at [email protected] immediately.

Our NEU support staff members should only undertake work in accordance with their job description / contract of employment and should not undertake any additional responsibilities that may arise directly because of teacher’s strike action.

TNC Management Side have also written to all schools, this communication states:

Operation of School - Staff not participating in strike action should be in attendance at school. The operational decision to open, partially open or close a school to pupil’s rests with the Principal who must determine the appropriate course of action in his/her school, depending on individual circumstances.

If the risk assessment determines that an appropriate level of supervision/assistance or support cannot be provided or that there might be health and safety issues or concerns around safeguarding arrangements the principal should inform parents/guardians at the earliest opportunity that the child/ren should not attend school during the period of strike.

Principals should ensure that a risk assessment is undertaken which should also incorporate consideration of other activities on this date, such as educational visits, to ensure appropriate levels of supervision.

The NEU does not expect non-striking staff to be asked to undertake work of striking colleagues.

Any request to non-striking teachers or support staff to cover for striking colleagues (whether by teaching their classes or by taking charge of larger aggregated groups) must be “reasonable”. Matters relevant to reasonableness will include the colleague’s experience, normal duties, qualifications and workload, and the fact that the head teacher can of course close the school.

Health and safety considerations also apply when teachers or support staff are asked to supervise others’ classes.

NEU Principal members, the same as all other NEU members, should take part in the strike action on 29 November 2023.

It would be advisable to inform the Board of Governors/Employing Authority that you will not be on site until 12 noon on 29 November 2023 in case they need to make arrangements for any staff not involved in industrial action.

In deciding whether the school can accommodate students, principal members should seek advice from their Employing Authority and may be advised to conduct a Risk Assessment.

Teachers and support staff who are not taking industrial action should not be redirected from their usual duties.

Principal members are not entitled to details of the names of staff taking part in strike action.

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