Standing in Solidarity: Addressing the Impact of Political Stalemate on Public Sector Workers - Butler

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Standing in Solidarity: Addressing the Impact of Political Stalemate on Public Sector Workers - Butler

UUP deputy leader and education spokesperson, Robbie Butler MLA Considers the impact the day of action this Thursday will have on children across Northern Ireland and the lack of political leadership that has forced school staff to make this decision.

“As a former Firefighter who participated in strike action over pay and conditions in 2002, I fully understand why our public sector workers have reached the end of their tether and will be taking industrial action this Thursday. My Ulster Unionist colleagues and I will be attending picket lines, demonstrating our solidarity with these underpaid workers.

“Much commentary at the moment revolves around assigning blame for the lack of movement by those with political authority to find a resolution to the impasse. It would be worse than remiss to ignore or dismiss the fact that the lack of an Executive and Assembly for almost two years is undeniably the reason. The decision to boycott Stormont and delay government by the DUP has brought us to this point. While those who sit in Westminster or the House of Lords see no reduction or loss in pay, it is more than angering to know that they are the ones who have brought us to this point.

“Our teachers, school leaders, and support staff have long found themselves at the back of the queue in comparison to the rest of the UK regarding their pay levels. Countless difficult negotiations with respective Ministers, often falling short of a fair settlement, have left those in the education sector disillusioned with the DUP's stance and its impact across the field.

“The recently published Independent Review of Education and the forthcoming End to End review for special education, when published, will likely join a multitude of strategies and reports gathering dust on departmental shelves.  The purpose and intent of these reports are to improve the lives of the people of Northern Ireland, however many require Ministerial and legislative framing and an Assembly to approve them. 

“Schools will be closed, with children sadly being the ones most impacted. Any day lost by a pupil comes at some cost to their education, a truth applicable to all pupils. However, well-researched and academically proven reports show that children with additional support needs or those from troubled backgrounds suffer the most. Alarming reports on childhood hunger, child poverty, and inequalities faced by too many children in Northern Ireland highlight that schools not only provide an environment of learning and opportunity but also a place where children are assured of a hot meal and safe therapeutic support.

“As Unionists, my Party and I are committed to building and strengthening Northern Ireland's place in the Union. To achieve this in both the short and long term, there is simply only one strategy that should concern anyone who shares that vision: making Northern Ireland work. That is achieved simply by putting people first, and ensuring children and workers do not suffer due to political folly."