Thursday 24 October 2019

'This is just the beginning' - School secretaries strike in dispute over pay and conditions

The union says that secretaries who are directly employed by school management boards earn as little as €12,500 a year
The union says that secretaries who are directly employed by school management boards earn as little as €12,500 a year

Allison Bray

Hundreds of students, teachers and parents joined school secretaries on picket lines across the country this morning as the school administrators downed tools in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Secretaries at up to a thousand schools nationwide stopped work for an hour at the start of the school day today as part of a campaign of industrial action by workers belonging to the trade union Forsa.

The union represents more than a thousand secretaries at schools across the country who claim that they are being paid under an “antiquated and discriminatory” two-tier pay system that has been in place since 1978.

The union says that secretaries who are directly employed by school management boards earn as little as €12,500 a year.

They also claim they have no occupational pensions and must work on non-permanent contracts and claim social welfare benefits when the schools are closed.

This is in direct contrast to secretaries employed by the Department of Education who are civil servants and have higher pay, pensions and permanent contracts.

Forsa spokesman Niall Shanahan said the large turn-out by secretaries and their supporters  show there is widespread support for what is the first industrial action ever taken by the secretaries.

“I went to St Brigid’s National School on Cork Street (Dublin) this morning and secretaries were joined by teachers and students,” he told Independent.ie.

“There was a tremendous sense of solidarity and the photos and messages (on social media) show this has been replicated across the country.”

The work stoppage will now be followed by an ongoing work-to-rule campaign, he said.

Such action includes such things as refusing to input student attendance records into the Department of Education database, he said.

“The whole idea is to maximise disruption to the Department of Education and minimise disruption to students,” he said.

“The protest this morning marked the beginning of the action. This is just phase one,” he said.

The Department of Education had called the action “premature and unwarranted.”

It is currently conducting a survey amongst secretaries to guage the extent of the problem and will only consider the claim once that is completed.

“As the union has previously been advised, the Department remains fully open to having further dialogue with Fórsa once the survey work has been undertaken,” a spokesman said.

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