Minister vows to investigate low paid salaries and working conditions for SNAs
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan has pledged to investigate low paid salaries and working conditions for Special Needs Assistants.
The Minister made the commitment as she addressed delegates at the IMPACT education division conference in Galway this morning where she received a standing ovation following her speech.
She told the conference that zero contract hours are “damaging the lives” of people working on them and are being reviewed by the Government.
Addressing the concerns of Special Needs Assistants who recently voted to take industrial action, she described any fragmentation which was making it harder for workers to secure decent hours as “unacceptable”.
She told delegates that while she could not simply issue a direction to school to stop this from happening, she had started a negotiation to find a solution.
“Within the last couple of days, the Department has written to management bodies, to unions, and to the National Council for Special Education. We have asked all parties to come together over the next couple of weeks to understand the challenges facing management bodies that are leading to this trend and to start putting in place a solution to address your union’s concerns, concerns which I share, about the hours worked by SNAs and the wages that they earn,” she said.
Speaking about zero hours contracts facing many SNA posts, Ms O’Sullivan said she believed they were damaging to the lives of people working on them and ultimately bad for employers.
A study will be completed by the end of the summer in relation to the contracts and all contracts involving less than eight hours a week.
“If this study finds such work contracts have a serious and detrimental impact on our citizens, then the Government will act,” she said.
Referencing the case of Dunnes Stores workers, the Minister was applauded as she said what they were looking for “is perfectly reasonable”
“Whether people are working in schools, or in supermarkets, low-paid workers should at least be entitled to decent and fair treatment. Because the bottom line is that work should always pay,” she said.
Acknowledging the need for further education funding, Minister O’Sullivan said staff pay, improved pupil-teacher ratios and investment of book rental schemes, schools meals and technology were all areas worthy of additional investment.
However, she singled out the area of early years sector.
“In particular, the early years sector - too long a neglected area of Irish education - needs to see a significant step-change in investment. So that our youngest children get the quality education they deserve. And so those working in this sector can earn a decent living,” she said
She also moved to address concerns about continued funding for the Schools Completion Programme which aims to keep vulnerable children in school. She told delegates a review on the programme was to be completed shortly adding she had spoken to Minister James Reilly who had assured her of his commitment to the programme.