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Supporters at St Andrew's National School in Lucan this morning. Twitter/Fórsa

Hundreds of school secretaries begin strike action this morning

Secretaries are calling for better pay and conditions from the Department of Education.

SCHOOL SECRETARIES ACROSS Ireland have begun industrial action today in a dispute over pay and working conditions . 

Secretaries at 250 schools in 22 countries went out on strike this morning for one hour and afterwards began a work-to-rule, which will cut communication between secretaries and the Department of Education for the majority of them. 

The dispute centres around the fact that only a few hundred of the country’s 3,500 secretaries are paid directly by the Department – the work-to-rule involves the refusal to take on any task that falls outside of their job description. 

It means they are not considered public servants, and therefore are not entitled to benefits such as a pension, sick pay, and pay during the summer months. 

Instead, they are paid by through an ancillary grant given to the Board of Management of schools by the Department – school secretaries earn an average salary of around €12,500.

Talks were ongoing between trade union Fórsa earlier this year but they broke down, prompting the union to ballot members on industrial action. After a turnout of 68% of members for the ballot, some 94% voted in favour of such action. 

“Union officials who attended the negotiations had hoped to discuss the substance of Fórsa’s claim for pay justice but department officials refused to engaged,” it said. 

The union’s head of education division, Andy Pike said: “School secretaries have done everything short of industrial action in their campaign for pay equality.

“They welcome the many pledges of solidarity they’ve received from politicians of all colours, but these are totally disconnected from the reality of the department’s position.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the cost of proposals made by the union, including access to a state pension scheme and year round pay is currently being reviewed.

“As the Department is not the employer of these secretaries and caretakers a survey is running until 20 September to gather as accurate information as possible on the number of people in these positions in schools whose salaries are funded from state grants,” the spokesperson said.

“Previous costings were based on a survey of schools conducted in 2009 and the 2015 Arbitration Agreement has been implemented in the meantime.

“Fórsa’s claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of the survey.”

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