School secretaries have today (Wednesday) voted overwhelmingly to accept an historic new package of pay and working conditions, which places them all on public service salary rates after a decades-long campaign for pay equity.
The deal, negotiated by Fórsa, significantly improves incomes and paid leave arrangements for low-paid secretaries, who the union says have been overlooked and undervalued for years.
The new agreement will see all school secretaries transfer to a new pay-scale aligned with the public service clerical officer scale. Prior to today, most of them were employed directly by schools, with most earning no more than the minimum wage.
Fórsa’s school secretaries voted to accept the agreement by a wide margin, with 95% voting in favour and 5% voting against on a 73% turnout.
From now on, their incomes will increase in line with public sector pay awards.
From now on, their incomes will increase in line with public sector pay awards. Assimilation to the new pay scale will be backdated to September 2021, and all school secretaries will be on the Department of Education payroll system with standardised pay arrangements across all schools.
For the first time, the agreement will also see salaries averaged over 52 weeks, including the cash value of job seekers benefit, which means secretaries will no longer have to sign on for unemployment benefits during school holidays.
The deal also enshrines 22 days paid leave a year, as well as payment for ten public holidays. This replaces ad-hoc arrangements, which left many school secretaries with no paid holidays.
The assimilation arrangements in the agreement will place secretaries with ten years’ service on an hourly rate of €13, which represents a 19.5% pay increase. Secretaries with 20 years’ service will see increases of 24.5%.
This historic agreement is a significant step forward for school secretaries who have been overlooked and undervalued for so many years.
Fórsa’s Head of Education, Andy Pike, said the deal would see many staff get a permanent contract of employment for the first time ever.
“This historic agreement is a significant step forward for school secretaries who have been overlooked and undervalued for so many years. Crucially the agreement secures pay parity with the public service, and ensures that they will no longer have to sign on when schools are closed.
“The provision of paid leave will benefit many members who have never received any paid holiday entitlement. And a standard national contract will enable Fórsa to seek improved conditions in the years ahead,” he said.
There was some disappointment that the agreement does not address the issue of pension provision for school secretaries. Andy said the union would continue to seek fair pension provision for school secretaries.
He said discussions on a similar outcome for school caretakers would now get underway.