Fórsa trade union’s 12,000 SNA (special needs assistant) members concluded their ballot today (Friday 18th February) on new pay measures negotiated under provisions contained in the Building Momentum public service pay agreement.
Just over 54% have backed a proposal to add an additional pay point – €1,100 higher than the current maximum – at the top of the SNA pay scale, as an alternative to accepting a one per cent increase due in February under Building Momentum.
The ballot turnout was 62%, and SNA members have voted to extend the maximum earnings for SNAs from €41,090 to a new maximum of €42,190.
The ballot result nevertheless illustrates the reality of the low salaries offered to SNAs whose starting pay is 41% below the average industrial wage.
Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said negotiating an option to increase pay at the top of the SNA scale was the right thing to do: “It was also correct to ensure members had the final say in a ballot.
“Our members had the choice of accepting a higher maximum salary or taking the one per cent general pay increase. Backing the proposal to raise salaries at the top of the scale will raise maximum earnings and improve pension benefits.
“However, it is also clear that more should be done to improve starting pay for SNAs. The length of the scale means that many thousands will have to wait years before they access the new scale maximum due to the length of the current pay scale,” he said.
The ballot of SNAs on the two options arises from terms built in to the Building Momentum national pay agreement. Its sectoral bargaining fund was designed to deal with outstanding adjudications, recommendations, awards and claims that are relevant to specific grades, groups or categories of workers within the various sectors of the public service.
Negotiations between Fórsa and the Department of Education produced a proposal to replace the current ‘long service increment’ (LSI) on the SNA pay scale with the new increment.
The outcome of this ballot should be seen as a clear signal to the Government that public servants are worried about rising prices and the increase in their cost of living.
Andy said SNA pay will now increase above and beyond the maximum of the clerical officer scale for the first time: “This demonstrates that it’s possible to adjust and increase the pay of SNAs in our schools, and this is a permanent and pensionable increase.”
Andy said the ballot result nevertheless illustrated the reality of the low salaries offered to SNAs, especially at the lower end of the pay scale: “SNAs have a starting salary of €25,102 per annum, which is 41% below the average industrial wage of €41,912 per annum.
“The outcome of this ballot should be seen as both an endorsement of the long-held view that our SNAs have been undervalued and underpaid, as well as a clear signal to the Government that public servants are worried about rising prices and the increase in their cost of living. This has to be reflected in the next public service pay agreement which will be negotiated over the coming months.”