Fórsa tabled a number of claims at the inaugural meeting of the newly-established national industrial relations forum for special needs assistants (SNAs), which met for the first time at the beginning of October.
The forum is made up of Fórsa reps along with education department officials and representatives of school management bodies.
The union had already lodged a formal claim for the abolition of the obligation for SNAs to be available to work an additional 72 hours per annum.
The union’s education chief Andy Pike recently updated SNA activists about the forum’s discussion of the claim: “We informed the department that the rostering of staff for an additional 72 hours a year has the effect of lengthening the working week, and that we would seek to raise the issue in future national pay talks as part of any discussion on working time for public servants,” he said.
Further negotiation will take place on how to ensure the hours are correctly used and allocated ahead of the forum’s next meeting in December.
The forum is to discuss ways to ensure the 72-hour obligation was used correctly across the sector. Further negotiation will take place on how to ensure the hours are correctly used and allocated ahead of the forum’s next meeting in December.
“A mechanism needs to be found to ensure use of the hours can be monitored within schools without the need for an individual whistleblower to report abuses,” said Andy, who also pledged that Fórsa would seek the abolition of the 72 hours in the next round national pay talks. These are expected to take place in the first half of 2020.
Fórsa has also raised its objections to the publication of a new sick leave circular, which fails to treat SNAs in the same way as teachers.
The union’s newly appointed assistant general secretary for SNAs, Eimear Ryan, said the department hadn’t worsened the sick leave provisions for SNAs, but they were refusing to improve them by bringing them in line with teachers’ arrangements.
“The provision to return to work on a phased basis is not included, and SNAs are required to submit a certificate after two days. Teachers don’t have to do so until after three or four days,” she said.
Eimear said there was no good reason for such a policy to persist, and said the union plans to either resolve the matter at the forum meeting in December, or refer it to the Workplace Relations Commission.
This story was first published in the Fórsa members’ news bulletin (Education edition) on Thursday 24th October 2019. The full bulletin is available here.