School secretaries industrial action set to go ahead from Friday

Talks between Fórsa and department end without agreement in dispute over pay

The trade union Fórsa said there had been no breakthrough on any of the issues in the dispute at talks with the Department of Education. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus Ltd

The trade union Fórsa said there had been no breakthrough on any of the issues in the dispute at talks with the Department of Education. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus Ltd

 

Industrial action by school secretaries seems set to go ahead from Friday after talks aimed at averting the dispute over pay ended unsuccessfully on Wednesday.

The trade union Fórsa said there had been no breakthrough on any of the issues in the dispute at talks with the Department of Education.

The Department of Education said any industrial action was “ premature and unwarranted” and urged the union to re consider its plans.

Fórsa said that school secretaries would engage in a brief one-hour work stoppage at the start of the school day on Friday.

“Secretaries will protest outside their school, or may join with colleagues at another school protest for the duration of the stoppage.”

“Protests will take place at 250 schools across the country, while up to a thousand schools are expected to be affected by the stoppage.”

“Thereafter they will commence a significant work to rule.”

The union said under the work to rule school secretaries would withdraw from work on public service systems and databases on the basis that if they were not paid or recognised as public servants.

Cause of dispute

Fórsa said the planned industrial action was expected to cause significant disruption to the administration of the schools sector without affecting students or parents.

The union said the dispute was over the refusal by the Department of Education to address a two-tier pay system that left most school secretaries earning just €12,500 a year, with irregular, short-term contracts that forced them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks.

The union said a minority of school secretaries were directly employed by the Department of Education and had public service employment status. However it said the majority were hired by school management boards which determined their pay and conditions.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it had to establish the full current 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.

The department said as it was not the employer of these staff, a survey was put in place to run until September 20 to gather information that was as accurate as possible.

Determining costs

The department said that at the talks with the union on Wednesday it had re-stated that its claim would be fully considered once the current costings had been determined.

“The department reiterated its view to the union that any industrial action is premature and unwarranted, not least because the period of the current arbitration agreement has not expired. The department called on Fórsa to reconsider their action. “

“The department remains fully open to having further dialogue with Fórsa once the survey work has been undertaken.”

Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike the department “didn’t offer any credible proposals to end the pay injustice facing most of the country’s school secretaries”.

“The two-tier low-pay regime for school secretaries has been in force for more than four decades. In that time we’ve seen little if any serious engagement from the Department of Education. This meeting ( on Wednesday)failed to deliver any progress what so ever.”

“We didn’t raise our expectations when we met with them today. Nothing was tabled by officials from the department to end this long-standing pay injustice. Our focus now is the industrial action that’s set to commence on Friday,” he said.