Fórsa trade union’s School Secretaries branch, which represents more than 1,000 school secretaries in primary and secondary schools nationwide, has indicated that notice of industrial action be served next week to over 1,000 individual schools and the Department of Education and Skills (DES).
School secretaries will hold three one-day work stoppages on Friday 23rd October, Monday 2nd November and Friday 13th November, this will be followed by an indefinite strike commencing from Monday 16th November. Notice is to be served to schools and the DES next Thursday (15th October).
The continuing dispute with the DES is due to a long standing 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 decision to strike was taken because school secretaries had exhausted all the options available to bring the dispute to a satisfactory conclusion.
A survey last weekend of Fórsa’s school secretary members found that 80% of respondents backed strike action, including an indefinite strike. Members were surveyed on the resumption of industrial action during which school secretaries engaged in a one day strike action in January, followed by low level industrial action in February this year.
The union’s head of education, Andy Pike, said the decision to strike was taken because school secretaries had exhausted all the options available to bring the dispute to a satisfactory conclusion.
He added: “Recent engagements with the department and the minister have shown that they are not serious about bringing the long-standing unfairness for school secretaries to an end.
“The positions adopted by the minister and department officials stand directly in the way of any progress being made. This has been an especially challenging year for all school staff, students and parents in the school community. It shouldn’t have to come to this to deliver a fairer system of employment for school secretaries, but they’ve been left with no other option but to take industrial action, and demonstrate their determination to achieve a fair outcome. Members are particularly angry that the department has reneged on the clear commitment given by the previous minister to use the Labour Court.”
The positions adopted by the minister and department officials stand directly in the way of any progress being made.
Mr Pike said recent correspondence from the minister failed to deliver a commitment to make progress on any issue, including the provision of sick pay, maternity pay and secure employment. He said the minister’s approach was in sharp contrast to pre-election pledges of support from Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to resolve the issue.
A meeting last week at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) made no progress, with the Department repeating the offer of a previous 1.5% increase per annum, which the union had previously rejected. Department officials said they could not agree to a Labour Court referral, despite a commitment made by the former education minister last year.
Fórsa represents half of the estimated 3,000 school secretaries employed directly by their school’s board of management and paid from the school’s ancillary grant. The union has sought to have school secretaries employed under public service terms, as they apply to school secretaries employed by the education and training board (ETB)-managed schools.