Work-to-rule by school secretaries suspended to allow for new talks

Union warns industrial action will resume if significant progress not made in new process

Minister for Education Joe McHugh: welcomed the new WRC talks. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Education Joe McHugh: welcomed the new WRC talks. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

An ongoing work-to-rule by school secretaries over pay has been suspended to allow for new talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

However, their trade union has warned that industrial action will re-commence unless significant progress was made.

About 1,000 school secretaries staged a one-day strike earlier this month and introduced an on-going work-to-rule which saw them withdraw from work on public service systems and databases in protest at a two-tier pay structure in place.

The trade union Fórsa said under the existing two-tier pay system most school secretaries earned 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 that while a minority of school secretaries were directly employed by the Department of Education and had public service employment status, the majority had their pay and conditions determined by school management boards.

Fórsa said on Monday it had accepted an invitation to return to talks at the WRC.

It said the commission had requested that the work- to-rule be suspended to allow this process to progress.

Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said the talks needed to yield real and significant progress to end the system under which school secretaries are employed.

“A failure to make real and significant progress would lead to an immediate resumption of industrial action by school secretaries, because they have resolved to keep the pressure on until the issue is dealt with once and for all,” he said. “The Minister and the department had previously made the mistake if underestimating that resolve, which led directly to the one day strike last Friday.”

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh said he had been on record since his appointment on the need for deep engagement on this issue. However he said compromise was necessary “or nothing would ever be resolved.”

“Secretaries and other support staff play a hugely important role in ensuring the smooth day to day running of schools and I am deeply conscious of the issues that secretaries have raised with me personally.

“The Department has previously engaged with Fórsa at the WRC and has remained open to returning to talks. I am glad that is now happening.”