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School secretaries secure agreement for 'regularised' conditions at WRC

The long-standing dispute between the union and the government centres on a two-tier pay system for school secretaries.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

MORE THAN 1,000 school secretaries on low pay with no job security are to have their conditions of employment “regularised” under a preliminary agreement reached at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). 

The workers represented by Fórsa were planning to strike on 23 October, 2 November and 16 November. The trade union said this morning that “agreement on a Roadmap” was reached at the WRC yesterday afternoon. 

The long-standing dispute between the union and the government centres on a two-tier pay system for school secretaries.

Most school secretaries are not employed by the Department of Education and, with no guarantee on set working hours, can earn as little as €12,500 annually. Secretaries who are paid by the Department of Education and Skills could earn between €24,000 – €44,711.

An offer from the department last year to resolve the issue was described as “derisory” and “insulting” by Fórsa, and the dispute rumbled on.

A survey of union members last weekend found that 80% of respondents supported strike action, including an indefinite strike.

Both sides have acknowledged that significant detailed discussions are required to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all stakeholders, Fórsa said today.

Talks will now commence with a view to reviewing progress next February 2021, if the discussions are not concluded at that point.

“This welcome change of heart gives us confidence that an end to the unjust two-tier pay system is now in sight,” Fórsa’s Head of Education, Andy Pike, said.

“We had very positive exchanges [yesterday], with real progress made.

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“We now look forward to getting into the detail, and a lot of work will be needed to complete the technical discussions on how the changes can be implemented to deliver public service status to all grant-paid secretaries and caretakers,” he said.

Pay scales – including the variations in pay across schools – will be addressed first under the new agreement.

“This is expected to be the most labour-intensive aspect of the process, which will then move on to explore working conditions and pensions. Other issues specific to the secretary and caretaker grades will also be addressed,” Fórsa said in a statement. 

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