School secretaries will hold a national one day strike on Friday 10th January 2020
Decision to escalate follows ‘insulting and derisory’ 1.5% offer
First published 9th December 2019
School secretaries represented by Fórsa trade union are to recommence industrial action following today’s discussions at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
The union’s School Secretary branch executive has approved a proposal to hold a national one day strike on Friday 10th January 2020, immediately followed by an escalated ongoing action under which school secretaries will resume their action withdrawing from work on public service systems and databases. They will also refuse to carry out the functions of public servants.
Fórsa will issue notice of industrial action to school principals this week.
Talks have been taking place since October on the Department of Education and Skills’ refusal to address a two-tier pay system that leaves most school secretaries earning just €12,500 a year, with irregular, short-term contracts that force them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks.
The union’s head of education, Andy Pike, said the department had failed to bring forward any proposals on pay capable of resolving the issue: “The offer to school secretaries was 1.5%. An offer we can only describe as insulting.
Regrettably the only way to increase pressure on the employer’s side is to escalate the industrial action.
“Fórsa left the WRC negotiations having given a clear message to the employers that our campaign does not seek percentage pay increases. What we’re seeking is respect and recognition for school secretaries through access to the same pay and conditions as secretaries in ETB Schools. Regrettably the only way to increase pressure on the employer’s side is to escalate the industrial action.
“In the context of broader pay trends, the offer of 1.5% is derisory and falls far short of what it would take to resolve a pay disparity that successive governments have allowed to fester for four decades. Our aim in this process is 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’s possible the Government has completely underestimated the resolve of school secretaries to get a meaningful result.
“This offer doesn’t even come close to achieving that goal, and it’s possible the Government has completely underestimated the resolve of school secretaries to get a meaningful result on this,” he said.
Pay increases under the under the current public service agreement (which does not apply to grant paid school secretaries) come in at just over 1.75% in 2019, while CSO figures show that average weekly earnings rose by 3.9% in the private sector.
Average economy-wide pay increases of almost 4% are anticipated in 2020.
Mr Pike said that while the WRC talks process hadn’t collapsed, the gap between both parties remains far too wide, and school secretaries had no option but to re-commence their industrial action.