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Supporters at St Andrew's National School in Lucan during the strike action.

Education minister agrees to bring school secretaries dispute to Workplace Relations Commission

The dispute centres around the fact that only a few hundred of the country’s 3,500 secretaries are paid directly by the Department.

TRADE UNION FÓRSA and the Department of Education have both agreed to begin talks at the Workplace Relations Commission in a bid to resolve a dispute involving school secretaries. 

The move comes after school secretaries began industrial action on 20 September in a call to the Department to review secretaries pay and working conditions.

The dispute centres around the fact that only a few hundred of the country’s 3,500 secretaries are paid directly by the Department.

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 between the Department and Fórsa broke down in May, prompting the union to ballot members for industrial action – following a turnout of 68%, its members voted in favour of industrial action by a margin of 97%. 

They began a work-to-rule two weeks ago which involves them refusing to take on any task that fell outside of their job description. 

In a statement this evening, Fórsa said: “The union welcomes the opportunity to work to resolve the issues at the heart of this dispute. The current system is antiquated and unfit for purpose.

“Fórsa wants 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,” it added. 

Education minister Joe McHugh also took to Twitter to announce his department had agreed to bring the dispute to the Workplace Relations Commission. 

He said: “The Department regrets that the union is now engaging in industrial action. As is normal practice the Department will agree to use the industrial relations machinery of the state to resolve the matter. 

“The Department will be requesting, and I am personally requesting, the assistance of the WRC in ensuring that once talks commence the industrial action be stood down to enable these discussions to progress.”

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