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School secretaries strike deferred after 'significant concessions' by Department of Education

The national one-day strike has been deferred for two weeks pending confirmation of a new pay package.

School secretaries outside Leinster House at a strike in January 2020
School secretaries outside Leinster House at a strike in January 2020

Updated Sep 14th 2021, 3:25 PM

A STRIKE BY school secretaries and caretakers planned for tomorrow has been called off after “significant concessions” by the Department of Education.

The national one-day strike has been deferred for two weeks pending confirmation of a new pay package.  

The Department of Education agreed yesterday to place secretaries on the public service Clerical Officer Grade III pay scale.

In a negotiation mediated by the Workplace Relations Commission, the department offered a new pay agreement for secretaries that should effectively remove the requirement for secretaries sign on to social welfare payments during school breaks as they will be able to have their salaries paid over the entire year on a pro-rata basis.

Fórsa said the arrangements for transferring staff to new scales are to be finalised in discussions over the next two weeks.

The changes will see the “equalisation of annual leave arrangements on the basis of public service clerical officer provisions”, the union said.

While the department agreed to improve sick pay arrangements, but the union is still pursuing equalisation with conditions for secretaries employed by Education and Training Boards.

After the negotiations, the union said work remains on the details of a similar package for caretakers, but that the department agreed to apply the same principles.

No agreement was reached on the provision of pensions.

“The parties will try and seek a resolution of this outstanding issue in the final phase of talks on this long-standing dispute,” Fórsa said.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said that “following intensive discussions at the WRC yesterday, there has been significant progress in the long running industrial dispute over pay and conditions for school secretaries outside of the ETB sector”.

“The assimilation of school secretaries to the CO Grade III pay scale will require further dialogue between the parties and an intensive engagement will take place of over the next two/three weeks to allow this to be finalised,” the spokesperson said.

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The department has offered to “improve the conditions for school secretaries with regard to sick leave, annual leave and maternity provisions for this cohort of staff”.

“This will take place via direct engagement with the unions in the coming weeks in addition to engagement on other elements of the claim and subject to all elements being agreed.”

The spokesperson said the department “welcomes the deferral of the national day of action scheduled for Wednesday 15 September to allow for intensive talks to resume aimed at resolving the claim and agreeing a final package”.

Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said that the efforts of secretaries and caretakers have “finally put the end of the two-tier pay system within our grasp”.

“No secretary or caretaker wanted to be on strike tomorrow, but their willingness to take that step in a just cause was crucial to this victory,” Pike said.

“On their behalf, I want to thank the thousands of parents, SNAs, teachers, principals, elected representatives and others who have shown growing support and solidarity for secretaries and caretakers, who are at the heart of the school community,” he said.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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