Rebecca Black, PA
Many frontline services have been affected across the North due to strike action by workers.
School transport, meals and council services such as bin collections have been disrupted by the action over pay.
In a separate action, university workers are staging a walkout over pensions.
At Belfast City Hall, council worker John Moore said the strike would last for seven days.
Education Authority workers at Rathgael House in Bangor out on strike today for better pay! ✊ ✊ pic.twitter.com/xg0tDyaOdx
— Unite the Union NI (@UniteunionNI) March 21, 2022
The Unite shop steward said workers needed a 10 per cent pay increase to make up for past pay freezes and rising living costs.
He suggested that politicians, rather than frontline workers, take effective pay cuts.
“We’re here today because of the 1.75 per cent pay rise that was offered to us last year. It was a slap in the face,” he said.
“1.75 per cent doesn’t cut it, 1.25 per cent, they’ll take it off us next month in national insurance and we would hope to get at least 10 per cent to make it liveable for ourselves and the knock-on effect to our families.
“The local councils and the government at Westminster need to listen to the people, the low paid frontline working class people on the ground.
“This is a slap in the face. We worked through a pandemic, we didn’t get anything for that, and now a 1.75 per cent pay rise is totally unacceptable, it is another pay cut. In the last 10-11 years we’re about 22 per cent behind.
“We have to live as well, our families have to live. 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 government to listen to us. Maybe if 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.”
Michael Pierse, a senior lecturer in English Literature at Queen’s University, and a member of the University and College Union (UCU), said the pension had been “decimated”.
“We’re on strike again due to the universities refusing to budge on substantive changes they have made to our pensions, the changes are enormous in the sense they cut our pensions between 30-40%,” he said.
“We’re on strike for other reasons too, wages have gone down in the region of 20 per cent since 2009, and massive casualisation at universities which means when they have opportunities to give someone a permanent job, sometimes they keep them strung along for years which makes people have difficulties in making big life decisions.
“Conditions generally have been getting worse but the pensions issue is the straw that has broken the camel’s back. A lot of people are very annoyed.”