School secretaries to strike over two-tier system of pay and conditions

One-day stoppage will take place on September 15th

School secretaries are to stage a one-day strike on September 15th as part of a dispute over a two-tier system of pay and conditions.

The union Fórsa, which represents the school secretaries, said pickets would be placed on the Dublin headquarters of the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The union accused the Department of Public Expenditure of blocking implementation of a Government commitment to standardise pay and conditions of school secretaries.

Fórsa said most school secretaries earned just €12,500 a year, with irregular short-term contracts that force them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks.

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The union has maintained that under the two-tier system some school secretaries are directly employed by and paid by the Department of Education, while the majority have their pay and conditions determined by school management boards that received grants from the State.

It said that nearly a year ago Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in the Dáil gave a commitment to end the two-tier system of pay and conditions.

The union said the dispute was subsequently referred to the Workplace Relations Commission "where, last July, the Department of Education offered an increase of just 50 cent an hour".

Fórsa dismissed the offer as as “derisory”.

The union's head of education, Andy Pike, said on Wednesday the Department of Education's failure to fully standardise pay and conditions for school secretaries and caretakers had left them bitterly disappointed as they faced into another school year of pay discrimination.

“The department’s offer fails spectacularly to meet the commitment made by the Tánaiste in the Dáil last October, when he said this four-decade pay inequality would be ended once and for all. School secretaries have again been let down by their employers and by the Government.

“They had a reasonable expectation that a solution would be in place by now. They have campaigned and made their case, which has won broad public and political support,” Mr Pike said.

“Following Mr Varadkar’s 2020 Dáil statement, school secretaries and caretakers counted the Government among those who backed pay equality in our schools. But that is evidently not the case, School secretaries have been badly let down, and feel that industrial action is now the only option open to them,” he said.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent