• Benny Cassidy is a hospital porter and a Unison member.

Time after time we are having to fight to get parity with the rest of our colleagues.

We do exactly the same work as our counterparts – it shouldn’t matter what region you’re in.

I have been a lifelong member of Unison and have been on the pickets numerous times.

But, at the moment, morale is as low as it can get. People are just so cheesed off. We shouldn’t have to fight every single time for fair pay.

There was so much said by the government about how valued we were during Covid, but we are still finding ourselves both undervalued and underpaid.

  • Jill Weir is a Band 2 Ward Clerk and a member of Unison. She is also the secretary of Omagh and Fermanagh Health branch of Unison.

Pay parity is the main reason we went on strike in 2019, and it was achieved back then. We were assured that would be it, going forward.

However, we feel [Secretary of State] Chris Heaton-Harris is using public sector workers as pawns to force the Executive back in.

I wish we didn’t have to come out on strike, and I believe we shouldn’t have to. I believe they [Stormont] should be sorting this out, but we have no alternative. It’s the only thing we can do.

Myself and my colleagues are classed as a ‘low-paid worker’, and it’s disgraceful that come April 1 this year, if the pay rise hasn’t been sorted, we will be below the minimum wage.

We should not have to be fighting to be above minimum wage in the public sector. 

  • INTO Assistant Northern Secretary Marie O’Shea is a former primary school teacher.

There has been a chronic underfunding in education for the past 15 years. Teachers’ salaries are 25 per cent less in real terms than back then.

There is much going on in world of education, and we stepped up in 2020 when the world fell apart. It’s as if that has been forgotten.

We find every ailment in society has been sent in the direction of schools to solve. All we want to do is teach – but there is so much else to it, and so much is being expected of teachers in this day and age.

It’s unsurprising so many teachers are considering their options outside of education.

Many are looking at jobs that will utilise the transferable skills they have, but with much higher salaries and less expectation. This trend will continue unless issues around pay are addressed.

  • Sally Rees is a teacher and Senior Vice President NASUWT, and on the National Executive Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

I have been teaching for 28 years, and every year I see an increase in our workload, yet no increase in our pay. The last 14 years have seen cuts of 38 per cent to teachers’ pay in real terms.

For me, that is a loss of over £76,000 into my pocket and into my pension!

And to add insult to injury, we are lagging behind our colleagues across all the other jurisdictions in the UK, with teachers and lecturers in Northern Ireland being the lowest-paid across these islands.

But our fight is about more than pay parity!

A starting teacher is earning just 97p more an hour than the minimum wage. How are we supposed to recruit, and retain our best and brightest into the teaching profession, if they are not being offered a decent graduate wage?

So I am striking today not just for my own gain, but for the future of the teaching profession. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with workers from across the public sector and trade union movement.