Lisnaskea principal’s plea over school bus strike

Gary Kelly, principal of St. Kevin’s College in Lisnaskea is calling on political parties to find a solution to tackle the pay issue for workers who are expected to go on strike after Easter break.
Hundreds of workers in Fermanagh will take part in the Unite industrial action from the start of next week, with the strike due to last for a fortnight, from Tuesday, April 26 to Sunday, May 1 and from Tuesday, May 3 to Sunday, May 8.
Unite the Union members are striking over a 1.75 percent pay increase which they have said is “completely unacceptable” and “a huge wage cut.”
The Education Authority said, “Disruption is anticipated to impact a number of EA home to school transport (yellow bus) services, some school meal services and the availability of some non-teaching staff, particularly in Special Schools”
Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Mr Kelly said the strike was expected to cause ‘significant disruption’ for the school and was taking place at a ‘bad time’ with exams expected to take place in a month’s time.
He said, “We are a rural school in Fermanagh and around 70 percent of our pupils travel to school on buses, mainly Education Authority buses and if they are not going to be on the 25th April that is going to cause significant disruption.”
“It comes down to quite simply that if the buses don’t run there is two choices for parents, they transport the child into school themselves or the child doesn’t come to school. We have good online learning but online learning is not the same as face to face learning.”
Mr Kelly said he would not appeal to Unite the Union members to stop striking due to the current cost of living crisis.
“The cost of living crisis is so bad at this present minute in time,” he said. “Many families including our low paid worker families, our bus drivers, our classroom assistants, our pupils’ families are all struggling with the cost of living and we have heard the whole thing do you heat or do you eat, now we have got heat, eat or educate just to add to it.”
“There needs to be a solution to this problem, the solution to this problem is not going to come from the unions it needs to come from the political parties, there is money sitting in Stormont to be spent, we need to solve this really really quickly or else children’s’ futures are going to be seriously damaged.”
Clare Duffield, director of Human Resources and Corporate Services at the EA, said, “We remain very concerned about the disproportionate impact both sets of industrial action will have on pupils, schools and families…
“We would call on Unite to work with us to agree exemptions to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable pupils, including those attending Special Schools.”

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