Deal reached to improve pay for school secretaries and caretakers

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School secretaries striking for improved pay outside Leinster House earlier this year
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Jess Casey

An agreement to improve pay, conditions and pensions for school secretaries and caretakers has been reached.The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will facilitate detailed discussions on regularising the employment of school secretaries and caretakers.

This comes as Fórsa, the union representing more than 1,000 school secretaries, and the Department of Education and Skills agreed on a "roadmap" to progress the changes.

According to Fórsa, these talks are expected to end a decades-old system that leaves most secretaries earning just €12,500 a year, with irregular short-term contracts that force them to claim unemployment benefits during the holidays.

The agreement was reached in the WRC late on Tuesday afternoon.

It follows recent commitments given in the Dáil confirming the intention of the Government to regularise pay and conditions for school staff.

Both Fórsa and the department acknowledge that significant detailed discussions are required to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties.

Talks will now commence, with a view to reviewing progress next February 2021, if the discussions are not concluded at that point.

'Welcome change'

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Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, said all sides had agreed that the change in Government policy was welcome.

This change was signalled by the Tánaiste having been set out in the election manifestos of both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, he added.

“This welcome change of heart gives us confidence that an end to the unjust two-tier pay system is now in sight.” “We had very positive exchanges today, with real progress made,” he added.

“We now look forward to getting into the detail, and a lot of work will be needed to complete the technical discussions on how the changes can be implemented to deliver public service status to all grant-paid secretaries and caretakers.” The newly-agreed framework will see three issues being dealt with sequentially.

Pay scales, including the variations in pay across schools, will be addressed first.

This is expected to be the most labour-intensive aspect of the process, which will then move on to working conditions and pensions.

Other issues specific to the secretary and caretaker grades will also be addressed.

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