Striking teachers and health care staff left their respective picket lines earlier this morning in order to join forces outside Omagh Courthouse, where together they staged an impressive and well-supported demonstration.
Joined by a few members of the public, and a host of staff from other areas of the public sector, teachers and health care workers made their distinct – but overlapping – pleas for better pay, improved working conditions, and more government investment in the invaluable public utilities they serve.
For the primary and secondary teachers who refused to work the first half of the school day, this represented their first time striking in six years.
For the nurses, ambulance and hospital staff, today’s industrial action was the latest in a protracted and ongoing campaign to force employers to improve pay and conditions.
Both teachers and health care workers claim that their wages have, for years, grossly failed to keep pace with inflation, and, furthermore, that these long-running grievances have been brought to a head by the current cost of living crisis.
The well-attended rally outside Omagh Courthouse was one of series of similar events held simultaneously across the North this morning. Other protest points included Belfast, Derry, Ballymena, Newry, Bangor and Coleraine.
Representing local teachers were the North’s four main teaching unions; National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT); the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO); the Ulster Teachers Union (UTU) and the National Education Union (NEU).
Making the case for health care workers were Unite, Unison, Nipsa and GMB.
Addressing the hundreds in attendance were union representatives and members of the concerned professions, including Andy McKane (Unison), Joy Corrothers (UTU), Anton McCabe (NUJ), Sally Rees (NASUWT), Peter Torney (INTO), and Shaunagh Lambe (NASUWT).
Speaking to We Are Tyrone just after the rally, Ms Lambe, a primary four teacher at St Mary’s PS, Dunnamore, said, “We are absolutely delighted with today’s rally here in Omagh, and it was great to see the four teachers unions here being represented. It was also heartening to see the support we received from Nipsa and Unison. It was absolutely fantastic.
“Sometimes you can be a bit worried that, although members seem to be supporting you, are they going to turn out on a damp, dreary morning.
“But today, the members showed their faith in – and solidarity with – each other, and it just shows how passionate we are in demanding better pay and better conditions for teachers here in Northern Ireland.”
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