School secretaries have commenced industrial action in a long-running dispute about the antiquated and discriminatory pay regime that affects the majority of school secretaries around the country.
The dispute is over the education department’s refusal to address a two-tier pay system that leaves most earning just €12,500 a year, with irregular, short-term contracts that force them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks.
The work-to-rule action commenced last Friday (20th September) and withdraws school secretaries from work on public service systems and databases on the basis that if they are not paid or recognised as public servants, they will also refuse to carry out the functions of public servants.
The action is expected to cause significant disruption to the administration of the schools sector without affecting students or parents.
School secretaries took part in a brief one hour work stoppage at the start of the school day last Friday. Secretaries protested outside their school at more than 250 schools across the country, while up to a thousand schools were affected by the stoppage.
Many of the protests saw enormous gestures of solidarity from the entire school community, including teachers, pupils and parents as they arrived at the beginning of the school day.
A selection of photos and videos from the rallies are available via Twitter and on Fórsa’s website.
School secretaries backed industrial action by a margin of 94% to 6% in a recent national ballot. The turnout was 68%.
A meeting between Fórsa and education department officials, about the issues behind industrial action by school secretaries, concluded last week without agreement.
Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said the department didn't offer any credible proposals to end the pay injustice facing most of the country’s school secretaries: “The two-tier low-pay regime for school secretaries has been in force for more than four decades. In that time we’ve seen little if any serious engagement from the Department of Education. This morning’s meeting failed to deliver any progress what so ever.
“We didn't raise our expectations when we met with them today. Nothing was tabled by officials from the department to end this long-standing pay injustice. Our focus now is the industrial action,” he said.
Head of Education Andy Pike spoke on RTE last Friday about the dispute. Listen back HERE from 01:15.