Minister must address school secretaries’ frustrations

Fiona O’Loughlin, TD for South Kildare raised her concerns with the Minister for Education following a breakdown in discussions last week at the Workplace Relations Commission.
Speaking following the breakdown, O’Loughlin said, “In September we saw protests take place in 250 school locations across the country in frustration over current pay and working conditions for our school secretaries. Now, almost three months on, there are further plans for industrial action following a breakdown of discussions.
“Secretaries feel they are being paid under an antiquated and discriminatory two-tier pay system that has been in place since 1978.The union says that secretaries who are directly employed by school management boards earn as little as €12,500 a year.
“While a few hundred school secretaries are paid directly from the Department of Education, but the majority of the country’s 3,500 school secretaries are paid through the ancillary grant, which is awarded to schools by the Department annually. The Department does not recognise these secretaries as its employees”.
O’Loughlin said, “The offer at the WRC this week to increase their pay by 1.5% has rightly been rejected as most school secretaries earn just €12,500 a year and have to sign on during holidays. The Union say the strike will take place on January 10, 2020, and will be followed by a work-to-rule unless the Government make solid progress on resolving the issues raised by the secretaries and the union”.
“This is a matter of huge concern as 90% of our school secretaries are not recognised for the vital work they do. They are not in a pension scheme, are not paid for summer holidays and do not know from one year to the next how they stand. Given the challenges schools have, we need to be able to support the heartbeat of the school, that is, the secretary and the caretaker. They need to be treated with the same respect as are the 10% employed by the Department of Education and Skills
The Minister must recognise how unfair the system is for our school secretaries and work on finding a solution to current pay and condition frustrations outlined by Forsa and the people they represent”, Concluded O’Loughlin.