Teachers' exemption from the Fair Employment Act is 'outdated,' according to the Northern Ireland Education Department

Teachers’ exemption from the Fair Employment Act is ‘outdated,’ according to the Northern Ireland Education Department

According to a union, the exemption of teachers in Northern Ireland from fair employment legislation is “outdated” and should be repealed.

That exemption has been criticized by a number of MLAs, including former first minister Arlene Foster.

The NASUWT, a teachers’ union, is the latest to push for the exception to be repealed. Teachers are protected from Northern Ireland’s anti-discrimination statute when it comes to hiring.

The removal of the exemption, according to the NASUWT, will “address endemic nepotism and a lack of diversity in the teaching profession.” On Tuesday, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) convention in Belfast will hear the union’s motion.

It demands for the exception to be repealed with the support of the larger trade union movement

The NASUWT stated, “The practical result of this is that it is currently not prohibited to discriminate against someone in an appointment process on the basis of their religious belief.”

Teachers and clergy were exempted from the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act of 1976 because “the essential nature of the employment requires it to be done by a person holding, or not holding, a specific religious belief.”

The Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 upheld this.

The exemption allows schools to hire teachers based on their religious beliefs or backgrounds. It also implies that schools are not required by law to investigate the backgrounds of their teaching staff.

“The exemption of teachers from the religious discrimination laws is largely accepted, and advocacy for reform is a minority perspective,” the Equality Commission concluded in 2004 after investigating the exemption.

The Catholic church was concerned, according to the Equality Commission, that eliminating it would result in Catholic schools losing their religious atmosphere and becoming non-denominational.

Protestant churches were also concerned that Protestant instructors would be disadvantaged as a result of the requirement for Catholic primary school teachers to hold a certificate in religious instruction.

The commission recommended that the exemption for post-primary schools be repealed, but no changes to the law were implemented.

“It clearly should go from post-primary schools,” said Geraldine McGahey, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission. “We think there should be a determined attempt to find a method to remove it from basic schools as well.”

A number of assembly members have been skeptical in recent years of teachers’ recruiting being exempt from fair employment regulations.

According to study conducted by the Unesco Education Centre at Ulster University (UU) in 2019, it may have contributed to the fact that few instructors from Protestant backgrounds teach in Catholic-run schools, and vice versa.

“Actively examining its position on the subject,” the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said.

The exception, however, “should stay in place until any suggestions for repeal can be proved to give entire confidence to the future of, in our case, Catholic education,” according to CCMS.

The exception is “outdated and needs to be eliminated,” according to NASUWT Northern Ireland official Justin McCamphill.

“We are calling on the first and deputy first minister to remove this and ensure that every teacher has equality of opportunity and is able to apply for work in any school regardless of their religion or perceived community background,” he said.

The leaders of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland are also expected to speak at the ICTU conference at the Waterfront Hall on Tuesday.


The number of people on NI payrolls has reached an all-time high

The number of people on NI payrolls has reached an all-time high

Official numbers reveal that the number of paid employees in Northern Ireland increased by 1.3 percent last month compared to before the outbreak.

Employee numbers in Northern Ireland reached a new high of 762,000 in July, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).

It’s the second month in a row that numbers have topped pre-Covid levels from March 2020. Payroll data from HM Revenue and Customs is the most up-to-date and accurate single indicator of the labor market.

In July, the number of employees was anticipated to be 762,600, up 1.3 percent from March 2020 and 3.1 percent more than the same period previous year. It includes furloughed employees, who numbered about 44,000 at the end of June.

The furlough program is set to finish in October, but it has already started to wind down. This could explain why there was a surge in redundancies in June and July, with 850 suggested in July. Near the beginning of the pandemic crisis, the establishment of the furlough system helped to stabilize the job market.

The unemployment rate in April-June 2021 was 3.8 percent, up 0.4 percent from the previous quarter and 1.2 percent from the previous year. The data were released on Tuesday in the wake of two major employment announcements in separate sectors of the economy. Wrightbus, based in Ballymena, will create up to 300 jobs as a result of new orders.

Jo Bamford purchased the company that went into administration in 2019. A total of 120 temporary positions are being converted to permanent positions. Mr. Bamford stated that by 2022, he expects to increase the employment from 56 employees two years ago to over 900.

Meanwhile, over the next four years, Workrise, a US company, will create more than 150 technology jobs in Belfast. The Austin-based company combines building projects with laborers.

Invest Northern Ireland has granted the company about £1 million in support for the 153 new jobs, which will pay much above the private sector average.

A gas storage project off the coast of Northern Ireland has been approved, creating 400 jobs during construction

A gas storage project off the coast of Northern Ireland has been approved, creating 400 jobs during construction

A Marine Construction Licence has been granted to a gas storage project off the coast of Northern Ireland, allowing it to begin construction.

The project will generate 400 new jobs. The Islandmagee Energy gas storage project will begin with seven gas storage caverns.

When completed and fully operational, the gas caverns in County Antrim will hold approximately 500 million cubic metres of natural gas and provide Northern Ireland with “security of supply” during peak demand for up to 14 days.

Ballylumford, Northern Ireland’s main gas-powered power station, is located on the Islandmagee peninsula and provides half of the province’s power.
It is also the terminus of the existing Scotland-Northern Ireland gas pipeline, making it an ideal location for this type of project.

The UK is said to have one of Europe’s lowest gas storage capacities, with only 1% of annual demand in storage, making it less resilient to supply issues than other European countries, which store up to 30% of annual demand.

When completed, the Islandmagee gas storage project will account for more than 25% of the UK’s storage capacity.

John Wood, Group CEO of Islandmagee Energy’s parent company, Harland & Wolff, said: “This is good news for consumers and businesses in the UK who are currently experiencing distressing hikes in energy prices and fears of potential blackouts as gas and power grids face peak demand stresses during the winter months.

“With the current energy supply crisis, everyone now understands just how important gas storage is to secure supply and protect against extreme volatility in gas and power prices in the UK.

“We are delighted with this major step forward in the project’s journey, paving the way for the construction of our facilities. We look forward to playing a greater role within the energy sector and in securing a safer future for all.”

Islandmagee Energy also plans to store hydrogen in the long run.

“Large-scale hydrogen storage will enable the UK to make the most of excess renewable energy as it transitions to net zero,” said John Wood.

“The existing power grid cannot always accept all of the electricity generated from wind farms during periods of surplus wind power generation.

“It is during these frequently occurring periods that wind farms are temporarily scaled back as there is no way to store the excess electricity produced. Production of large-scale hydrogen and its storage is the long-term solution to this.

“Excess wind generated power can be used to produce green hydrogen which can then be stored in salt caverns for future use during peak demand periods.”

During construction, 400 direct jobs will be created, as well as between 800 and 1,200 indirect jobs, with an annual economic impact of around £7 million.

It is also estimated that during this stage, for every £1 million of capital expenditure, an additional £2 million will be created in the economy per year; this means that with 75% local content, the wider economy could benefit by around £400 million.

During operations, an additional 60 direct jobs are expected to be created, bringing in around £1 million per year to the local economy, and between 120 and 180 indirect jobs, bringing in an additional £2-3 million per year.

Barclay Communications

Barclay Communications in Northern Ireland has won new government contracts

Northern Ireland’s Barclay Communications has won two government contracts worth approximately £0.75 million.

Following competitive tender processes, the company won contracts with the Welsh Parliament and the New Forest District Council in Hampshire. In Wales, it will supply and manage hundreds of connections on O2, Vodafone, and EE for Welsh MPs in a two-year deal worth £250,000.

And its three-year Hampshire contract is worth £521,000 and covers over 750 connections, with room for expansion.

Barclay Communication will upgrade the organization’s entire communications hardware while also developing a package to protect the council’s sensitive data.

Britt Megahey, managing director at Barclay Communications, said: “We are delighted to add two more high-profile government contracts to our client portfolio.

“We have consistently invested in our business to ensure our customers are provided with bespoke and innovative communication solutions and as a result, it has allowed us to secure many tender wins for high-profile clients. I am proud to say that over 93% of clients continue to stay with us long after their initial contract term.

“Working with the Welsh Parliament has been a challenge that the Barclay Communications team relished.

“To fulfill the comms requirement for existing and new MPs, the solution had to be delivered within an exceptionally short time frame. We ensured handsets and connectivity were provisioned and onsite, ready for the required completion date.”

He added: “These significant new contracts speak volumes about the investment we have made in the business over recent months and the dedication our staff has to both our customers and our company.”

The contract awards come only two months after the Barclay Group invested £2 million in its landline division, creating 35 new jobs.

The Barclay Group has also undergone a complete rebranding of all of its companies, including a new website, in recent months.

ASOS to create 184 new jobs

ASOS to create 184 new jobs

The DfE skills academy will fill 130 positions for the e-commerce fashion giant’s £14 million Belfast facility.

ASOS, the online fashion retailer, announced today that it will invest £14 million in a Belfast tech hub that will employ 184 people. Economy Minister Gordon Lyons stated that the positions, which include data analysts and software engineers, will be filled over the next three years.

Many will be hired through a £1 million Department for Economy Assured Skills Academy with ASOS. The academy will screen potential candidates for 130 of the 184 positions. Invest Northern Ireland, an economic development agency, said it had been in talks with ASOS about a potential investment here for four years.

“Today’s announcement by ASOS is a clear vote of confidence in Northern Ireland and our strong appeal as an investment location,” Mr Lyons said.

“The development of the new Belfast tech hub, as well as the creation of over 180 jobs, represents a significant investment by the company in Northern Ireland.

“In exchange, our talent pool will provide ASOS with the high-quality engineering resources it requires to carry out its international expansion plans.”

He claims the jobs will generate nearly £6.5 million in additional wages for the local economy, with an average salary of around £35,000. Over the next three years, all 184 positions are expected to be filled.

“The first Assured Skills Academy with ASOS, focusing on data engineering and delivered by South Eastern Regional College, is now open for applications — I encourage anyone who is interested and eligible to apply for this exciting opportunity,” he added.

The hub will open its doors early next year, with 52 positions filled in the first year. Recruitment for a variety of positions, including engineering and data science, is already underway.

Invest Northern Ireland, which contributed nearly £1.2 million to the relocation, stated that the exact location of the hub had not yet been determined.

Nick Beighton, CEO, ASOS, said: “Our new hub will provide us with cutting-edge tech expertise to support future growth. Belfast has a wealth of tech talent and we’re excited to be establishing a permanent base in such a vibrant city.”

Cliff Cohen, chief technology officer of ASOS, added: “As we continue to scale our investment in technology, we are looking to hire talent across engineering roles into our new tech hub, and help foster talent in Northern Ireland by supporting its growing reputation as a centre for tech excellence.”

Kevin Holland, Invest NI’s CEO, said: ”The new roles will offer a range of opportunities for software engineers and analysts, development opportunities for those in the early stages of their tech careers and will provide exciting pathways for people to join Northern Ireland’s digital workforce. We very much look forward to supporting ASOS to grow in Northern Ireland.”

The ASOS Data Engineering Assured Skills Academy is accepting applications until 5 p.m. on October 22. The successful applicants will begin training on January 10.

The announcement of the hub comes as the DfE opens the application process for its £145 million Shop Local voucher scheme for brick-and-mortar retailers.

ASOS recently released its financial results for the four months ending June 30, 2021. It revealed that online UK sales increased by 36% to £526.4 million during the period. Over the same period, its Rest of World sales increased by 11% to £715 million.

It sells its clothes in over 200 different markets. In addition to its own brands, it sells many high street favorites, including its recently acquired Arcadia brands Topshop, Topman, and Miss Selfridge, which it purchased earlier this year for £265 million, plus £65 million for current and pre-ordered stock.