New pay, pensions deal for school workers by next academic year – Fórsa

Revised contract for secretaries and caretakers being put together, union conference told

The head of  Fórsa’s education division, Andy Pike,  said some school secretaries had been campaigning for up to 20 years for an end to the existing two-tier system. Photograph: iStock

The head of Fórsa’s education division, Andy Pike, said some school secretaries had been campaigning for up to 20 years for an end to the existing two-tier system. Photograph: iStock

 

A new deal on pay, conditions and pensions for school secretaries and caretakers may be in place by the start of the next academic year, the Fórsa trade union’s education conference has been told.

However, the conference also heard that a row may be brewing over grading of staff in the education and training board (ETB ) sector.

The head of the union’s education division, Andy Pike, said some school secretaries had been campaigning for up to 20 years for an end to the existing two-tier system under which some were directly employed by and paid by the Department of Education, and had public-service employment status, while the majority had their pay and conditions determined by school management boards which received grants from the State.

School secretaries had staged strike action prior to the pandemic over the issue.

He said the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, had told the Dáil last year that it was now Government policy to regularise the pay, conditions and pensions of school secretaries and school caretakers.

He said school secretaries and caretakers were an essential part of the school team and needed to be recognised as such.

Mr Pike said the union and the department were putting together a new national contract with revised conditions of service for school secretaries and caretakers. He said a lot of work remained and progress had been “somewhat slow”.

However, he told delegates: “We are confident that an agreement can be finalised in time for it to be implemented for the start of the next school year.”

Staff grading

Separately, Mr Pike said an issue was building up regarding staff grading in the ETB sector.

He said that following the abolition of the vocational education committee system and the establishment of ETBs, a standardisation arrangement had been put in place for senior personnel to fit into the new structure. He said there had been an expectation that a similar system would be put in place for other grades.

Mr Pike said that at present staff with identical roles in different ETBs across the country could be on a variety of grades.

He said the union was seeking the completion of the organisational design of the ETB structure. He said the issue was before the Workplace Relations Commission but, if necessary, more robust action may have to be contemplated if progress was not made.

Meanwhile, it also emerged that Fórsa is seeking parity between special-needs assistants and teachers on the provision of breastfeeding breaks. Such breaks allow the personnel concerned to step aside from their duties for a specific period during the day for the purposes of breastfeeding.

The union said teachers had significantly more enhanced provision of 104 weeks for taking breastfeeding breaks than special-needs assistants (SNAs), who had 26 weeks.

The union stated in its claim that any breastfeeding policy should be indiscriminate in its application and should apply to all female employees equally.

Fórsa official Shane Lambert said there was “no rational argument” that could be made to state that a teacher and their child have a greater need or warrant any different treatment to an SNA and their child.

“The needs of the children should be considered equal and, as such, clearly, so should the provisions.”