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pay talks

School secretaries to hold national one-day strike and escalate their industrial action

The one-day strike in January will be followed by a work-to-rule from the secretaries, trade union Fórsa said.

SCHOOL SECRETARIES WHO are represented by trade union Fórsa are going to hold a national one-day strike and resume a work-to-rule as they escalate their industrial action over their pay. 

Talks got under way in October with the Department of Education at the Workplace Relations Commission over the union’s pay claims, with many school secretaries earning as little as €12,500 a year.

Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said that the department’s offer was “derisory” with members approving a proposal to hold a national one-day strike on Friday 10 January 2020.

This will be immediately followed by a resumption of their work-to-rule, where school secretaries will cease their interaction with the Department of Education. This is a form of industrial action where workers don’t do tasks that fall outside of their job descriptions (ie, tasks for which they aren’t paid).

A few hundred school secretaries are paid directly from the Department of Education, but the majority of the country’s 3,500 school secretaries are paid through the ancillary grant, which is awarded to schools by the Department annually.

The department does not recognise these secretaries as its employees. 

This means that secretaries paid through the grant can earn as little as €12,500 a year, with their hours per week decided based on how big a grant the Department awards to the school.

This compares with salaries of between €24,000 and €44,711 for those paid directly by the department. 

In a statement from Fórsa today, Pike said that what was put forward from the department was “an offer we can only describe as insulting”. 

“Fórsa left the WRC negotiations having given a clear message to the employers that our campaign does not seek percentage pay increases,” he said.

“What we’re seeking is respect and recognition for school secretaries through access to the same pay and conditions as secretaries in ETB schools. Regrettably the only way to increase pressure on the employer’s side is to escalate the industrial action.”

He said the union’s aim is to ensure school secretaries and caretakers are “afforded the opportunity to work in a system that properly reflects their huge value to the school community”. 

Pike added that what had been put on the table “doesn’t even come close” to achieving that aim. 

School principals are set to be issued with notice of industrial action by Fórsa of the industrial action later this week. 

A spokesperson at the Department of Education told “At the WRC today, the management side (Department of Education and Skills, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and school management bodies) met with representatives of School Secretaries and Caretakers from the Forsa union.

This was the latest in series of discussions under the auspices of the WRC, arising from a claim lodged by Forsa in respect of the staff concerned. The matter as far as the management side is concerned is still being progressed at the WRC, where talks are ongoing. The Department remains willing to engage in discussions on the matter and would encourage the union to continue its engagement also.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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