Industrial action by school secretaries suspended to facilitate new talks

Disruption aimed at ending two-tier pay system and short-term contracts

Nearly 1,000 school secretaries withdrew from carrying out work on public service systems and databases towards the end of September. Photograph: iStock

Nearly 1,000 school secretaries withdrew from carrying out work on public service systems and databases towards the end of September. Photograph: iStock

 

Industrial action by school secretaries has been suspended to facilitate talks with school management bodies and the Department of Education at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Nearly 1,000 school secretaries withdrew from carrying out work on public service systems and databases towards the end of September. This was part of a campaign of disruption aimed at ending a two-tier payment system .

The trade union Fórsa said the existing system meant most school secretaries earned just €12,500 a year and had short-term contracts which required them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks.

The union said that while a minority of school secretaries were directly employed by the Department of Education and had public service employment status, the majority have their pay and conditions determined by school management boards.

Fórsa said its school secretaries’ branch suspended its industrial action on Tuesday following confirmation that school employers would be represented in negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission. It said this removed any barrier to the talks taking place under the industrial relations legislation.

Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, said the union received written confirmation that school management bodies would fully participate in negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission. The management bodies will also recommend that individual school management boards accept any new agreement if the Department of Education provides funding.

“Therefore the work to rule is suspended as of 2pm on Tuesday, October 22nd and members should work normally and cease the boycott of the Esinet system,” he said.

Talks in the Workplace Relations Commission will take place on Thursday, October 24th, with Fórsa saying the negotiations are expected to continue for a number of weeks.

Mr Pike said members should complete any backlog of work within a reasonable timescale.

“Any requests for additional hours to be worked to clear a backlog should only be facilitated on the basis that overtime is paid or an alternative arrangement is in place acceptable to the secretary.”

The Department of Education last month described the industrial action by school secretaries as “premature and unwarranted”.

The department said at the time that it had to establish the full cost of the trade union’s claim for public service pay scales, year-round working patterns and access to a public service pension scheme for secretaries and caretakers who were employed directly by schools, and whose salaries were funded from grants.