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School secretaries’ strike deferred after ‘significant concessions’ by Department of Education

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School secretaries held a one-hour strike two years ago over pay issues.

School secretaries held a one-hour strike two years ago over pay issues.

School secretaries held a one-hour strike two years ago over pay issues.

A national one-day strike by school secretaries and caretakers scheduled for tomorrow has been deferred.

Trade union Fórsa said the deferral comes after the Department of Education made “significant concessions” in a Workplace Relations Commission-brokered negotiation on Monday.

Fórsa says the department conceded that all school secretaries should be placed on the public service clerical officer scale, “bringing an end to a four-decade old two-tier pay system”.

The offer will also bring an end to the requirement for most secretaries to sign on during school breaks, as they will be able to retain existing work patterns while having their salaries paid over 52 weeks on a pro-rata basis.

The new deal came into effect from September 1 of this year and will also see school secretaries receive annual leave arrangements on the basis of public service clerical officer grounds.

The Department of Education also agreed to improve sick pay arrangements, though Fórsa said it is still pursuing full equalisation with ETB-employed secretaries. It said the department has stated that the administration of secretaries’ pay will be centralised, with the details to be discussed over the coming weeks.

Whilst no agreement was reached on the provision of pensions, the parties will try and seek a resolution of this outstanding issue in the final phase of talks on this long-standing dispute.

Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, said the outcome represented a “major victory” for school secretaries after a decades-long campaign.

“The determination and resolve of school secretaries and caretakers has finally put the end of the two-tier pay system within our grasp.

"No secretary or caretaker wanted to be on strike tomorrow, but their willingness to take that step in a just cause was crucial to this victory.

"On their behalf, I want to thank the thousands of parents, SNAs, teachers, principals, elected representatives and others who have shown growing support and solidarity for secretaries and caretakers, who are at the heart of the school community,” he said.

Yesterday evening, the Fórsa branch committee agreed to defer the strike action for two weeks, pending confirmation of the implementation of the package.

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