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Fórsa school secretaries branch chair Maria Dunne speaking in Dublin this week. Conor_Healy_Photography
support our secretaries

Explainer: Why are some school secretaries on less money than others?

A campaign has begun this year to try to increase school secretaries’ pay – but is it so varied in the first place?

THIS WEEK, FÓRSA trade union launched a campaign to ensure school secretaries receive equal pay rates as each other.

At the moment, secretaries’ annual salaries vary massively. Fórsa say that the lowest case they’ve come across was a wage of €12,700. Other secretaries who are paid by the Department of Education and Skills could earn between €24,000 and €44,711.

The marked differences in salaries are because of the various methods in which secretaries are paid: some secretaries, estimated to be around 10%, get a salary directly from the Department of Education.

There are over 300 secretaries who are paid directly through the Department, with the rest in more precarious employment – (179 primary school secretaries and 130 post-primary secretaries at the end of the first quarter of 2018, according to government figures).

Others are paid through the Ancillary Services Grant’, which is to assist primary schools that have not been provided with secretarial and caretaking assistance directly from the Department.

The current rate at which grant-paid secretaries are is paid is €11.79 an hour. But depending on what grant the school gets, secretaries hours could be cut to suit the budget (the size of the grant is dependent on the number of students enrolled each year).

Secretaries paid in this way have no pension, sick leave or scale of pay as those paid through the Department do, and some have to apply for social welfare during the summer months and Christmas holidays.

The reason for the split

In 1978, a secretarial and caretaking assistance scheme was set up to pay secretaries.

Between 1978 and 1982, the Department made school secretaries public servants, and paid them directly from the Exchequer. This was later rolled back on, so now only a few hundred school secretaries are paid this way.

In 1982, a programme was set up to instigate economic progress, which included grants to employ secretaries and caretakers.

Despite not being civil or public servants, in 2010 secretaries’ pay was cut under Fempi measures, which were introduced during the recession to save money through introducing cuts to the public sector pay package. These measures are now being rolled back on.

Pay increases

In January of last year, secretaries being paid through the ancillary grant got their pay increased from €11.01 an hour to €11.50. In April, it increased again to €11.79.

Those being paid directly from the Department of Education “on a salary scale equivalent to a public service salary scale” got an increase of 1% of their salary. In October it increased by a further 1%.

The Department of Education says that “a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 for such staff is being phased in over the period 2016 to 2019″.

Kathleen O’Doherty, a school secretary in Letterkenny, Co Donegal said that a 2.5% annual increase to someone who was on €9 or €10 an hour was “an insult”.

She also says that some secretaries aren’t getting this payment because they’re not aware of it, and mightn’t be aware that they are on different rates of pay than their fellow secretaries.

At an event this week, members of People-Before-Profit, the Social Democrats, and the Labour Party who were present at the event all voiced their party’s support for equal pay for school secretaries.

A national day for school secretaries will be held on a date in May.

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