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27 September 2007 Edition

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Education Minister intervenes in classroom assistants' dispute

Catríona Ruane

Catríona Ruane

Ruane tries to break pay impasse

SINN FÉIN Education Minister Catríona Ruane has told the Northern Assembly that she will intervene in the classroom assistants’ pay dispute.
“Classroom assistants provide an invaluable role and are a hugely positive force in the lives of the children they serve,” Ruane said. “They work with some of our most vulnerable young people, including those who have a range of special needs.
“I am concerned that, since the Assembly debated this issue in June, and despite my own meetings with both the management side and the unions, there has been no real progress in resolving this issue.
“I am now calling on the employing authorities to proceed as swiftly as possible to implement the new gradings so that these valuable staff receive the pay rates to which they are entitled as a result of the systematic job evaluation process which has been carried out.
“These staff have already had to wait an unacceptable amount of time. We need to get the money to them that they deserve.
“We want a resolution to this dispute and I am calling on the employers and the unions to meet to sort out the remaining differences in an equitable way
“It is only right that there is a proper mechanism in place to ensure that the work that classroom assistants carry out is evaluated in a fair and consistent manner which ensures that jobs of equal value receive equal pay. This is the purpose of the Job Evaluation Scheme.
“The issues that have arisen here are part of a bigger picture. I believe we need to take a wider and more fundamental look at our approach to the planning and management of the education workforce in our schools. We should examine the roles and responsibilities of all the main groups and seek to maximise the contribution of each so that the pupils in our schools get the benefit of the skills and expertise that they each bring.
“I have asked my officials to draw up terms of reference for a review of this nature with the aim of making progress as soon as practicable.” 

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