Fórsa’s school secretaries have taken their concerns about pay inequality directly to the Minister for Education & Skills, Richard Bruton.
Committee members of the School Secretaries branch took the opportunity to engage with the minister in person when he attended Fórsa’s conference event in Dublin in early April (pictured).
Branch chairperson Maria Dunne followed up their conversation with a letter to Minister Bruton the following day.
The letter outlined the continuing difficulties faced by school secretaries, who are not employed by the Department of Education & Skills, but by individual schools boards of management.
Maria explained that this arrangement, which has been in place since the early 1980s, has led to a “myriad of variances in pay and conditions for all.”
Maria wrote: “The Department of Education has long abdicated responsibility for school secretaries throughout the country.”
The letter places strong emphasis on the fact that school secretaries receive no sick leave pay or pension.
Maria added that many school secretaries have had to fight for the 2.5% increase awarded by the WRC in 2015 on an annual basis. She said that some have never received this pay increase.
The letter states: “Our position is one of precarious employment. Many school secretaries have to apply for social welfare for the duration of school holidays. How demoralising! So yes, ‘the boot is now pinching’ and has been for many years.
“We have had enough of being dismissed. We are entitled to the same “policies and relationships toward wellness” you eloquently spoke about yesterday.
“The school secretary is involved in the very ‘hub and fabric’ of the school environment. We too are stakeholders. It is time to be recognised as such.
“We have approached successive Ministers for Education over the years at each conference they attend. We have been afforded the same courtesy shown to us yesterday by you, Mr. Bruton but we have seen little change in the ‘two tier’ system that continues to apply. We call on you to be the first Minister for Education to make a difference to our entitlement to equality and dignity in our workplaces,” it said.
Fórsa assistant general secretary Barry Cunningham said the letter expressed both the determination and frustration of school secretaries, who have been seeking a resolution to the issue for more than a decade. “Devolving power over pay to individual schools reduces transparency and gives rise to unfair and erratic pay systems where non-teaching staff are treated as second-class citizens.
"Our members are seeking the intervention of a minister who can tackle this issue once and for all,” he said.
The branch has received an acknowledgement from the minister’s private secretary. Maria said, “We will continue to apply pressure to get a meeting with the minister. Our determination to resolve this is absolute, if Minister Bruton fails to resolve it, all the political parties can expect this to be an issue for us at the next general election.”