Fórsa’s School Secretaries branch is continuing preparations for a national campaign to improve secretaries’ pay next year.
Lead organiser Joe O’Connor said the campaign will launch in 2019 when negotiations are due to commence under the current adjudication agreement.
“We intend to use the intervening months to do the required planning and groundwork for the campaign, develop campaign messaging and materials, and raise awareness in the political system of the plight of school secretaries,” he said.
Caretakers and secretaries pay rates vary, as they are determined by the individual board of management of each school, and paid from the ancillary grants paid to the schools by the Department of Education and Skills.
Almost all are paid below the scale paid to equivalent public service workers, including a minority of secretaries and caretakers who are paid directly by the department.
In a recent in-depth feature on the treatment of school secretaries, respected journalist Michael Clifford wrote in the Irish Examiner that school secretaries “have precious little power in a system in which power talks and those without it must do without.”
He spoke to Kathleen O’Doherty for the article, describing how she had, in 2001, written to the then minister for education pointing out the apparent disregard for her role. “She has written to every minister since, and each one has quietly ignored the problem.”
Kathleen said: “We’re not fighting against the boards of management, we know their hands are tied. But there is no security whatsoever. In fairness to principals and boards, a secretary’s wages may be the last thing taken into consideration simply because things are so tight.”
Under the terms of a 2015 arbitration finding, the payment of four separate pay rises of 2.5 per cent for school secretaries and caretakers will be completed by 2019. The branch plans to launch the campaign once these pay improvements have been completed.
Fórsa official Barry Cunningham explained that the planning for the campaign has gained momentum this year, following the union’s Education conference event in April. Since the conference Fórsa's School Secretaries branch has grown by 15%
Should school secretaries have more power in the education system? - Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner, Thursday 27th September 2018