Agreement reached on pathway to regularise pay and pensions for school secretaries

Intensive talks now to take place on new system for staff employed by management boards

Members of Fórsa’s school secretaries branch protesting outside the Department of Education earlier this year. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Members of Fórsa’s school secretaries branch protesting outside the Department of Education earlier this year. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

 

Industry Correspondent

An agreement has been reached on a pathway to regularising the pay, conditions and pensions of school secretaries and caretakers which are currently determined by individual boards of management, the trade union Fórsa has said.

It said on Wednesday that the Department of Education had agreed a “roadmap” to progress changes in this area.

It said the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) would now facilitate detailed discussion on regularising the pay, conditions and pensions of such school secretaries and caretakers.

“ The talks are expected to end a decades-old system, which leaves most school secretaries earning just €12,500 a year, with irregular short-term contracts that force them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks”, the union said.

The school secretaries have been seeking an end to the existing two-tier system under which some are directly employed by and paid by the Department of Education and have public service employment status, while the majority have their pay and conditions determined by school management boards which receive grants from the State.

Fórsa said agreement on the proposed new roadmap was reached in the WRC on Tuesday. It said the move followed a commitment given in the Dáil recently by the Government that it intended to regularise the pay, conditions of employment and pension provision of school secretaries and caretakers.

The union said both sides had acknowledged that significant detailed discussions were required to reach an agreement that was acceptable to all stakeholders. It said these talks would now commence, with a view to reviewing progress next February, if the discussions were not concluded at that point.

Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said: “This welcome change of heart gives us confidence that an end to the unjust two-tier pay system is now in sight. We had very positive exchanges today, with real progress made. We now look forward to getting into the detail, and a lot of work will be needed to complete the technical discussions on how the changes can be implemented to deliver public service status to all grant-paid secretaries and caretakers .”

The union said that under the new framework three issues will be dealt with sequentially.

“Pay scales, including the variations in pay across schools, will be addressed first. This is expected to be the most labour-intensive aspect of the process, which will then move on to explore working conditions and pensions. Other issues specific to the secretary and caretaker grades will also be addressed.”

Fórsa represents more than 1,000 school secretaries in primary and secondary schools across the country.

The Department of Public Expenditure and the Department of Education has been approached for comment.