School secretaries outlined their experience of poor pay and uncertain short-term contracts to a hearing of the Oireachtas education committee last week. The committee was meeting to discuss the status of non-teaching staff in schools, and sought written submissions from Fórsa and other stakeholders.
In its submission to the committee, Fórsa said most school secretaries are very poorly paid, with uncertain short-term contracts that force many of them to sign on during the summer holidays.
Fórsa also highlighted the wide range of duties carried out by school secretaries in its submission. The majority of school secretaries and caretakers are paid from ancillary grants and are not deemed to be public servants.
The head of Fórsa’s Education Division, Andy Pike, said: “The routine work carried out by school secretaries in many instances far exceed the limits of responsibility as set out in the clerical officer job descriptions used by the Public Appointments Service for the purposes of recruiting new clerical officers across the public service.”
Andy added: “The majority of school secretaries, around 90%, work alongside colleagues with full public service status, but are locked out of the system without holiday pay, sick pay, pensions or access to public service salary scales.
“The remaining 10% of staff employed by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are paid according to public service pay scales and have access to the standard benefits of public service status such as pensions and paid leave.
“School secretaries are uniquely disadvantaged in their sector, and the conditions under which they are employed falls far short of the standards set elsewhere in education.
“It’s time for these inequalities to be addressed, and for the terms and conditions of school secretaries to properly reflect their enormous value to the school community,” he said.
Fórsa’s submission to the Oireachtas committee included research by independent employment expert Seán McHugh, which demonstrated the wide range duties that school secretaries undertake.
It included details of challenges faced by other non-teaching staff. The union said special needs assistants (SNAs) should be allowed to serve on school management boards alongside their teaching colleagues.
Fórsa repeated its call for a common set of pay and conditions for staff working in education centres. In a recent submission to an Oireachtas education committee investigation into issues affecting non-teaching education staff, the union said the workers were employed on a range of salary scales and were not treated as public servants despite providing “key services to public servants.”
The submission also addressed the challenges facing staff working in the school completion programme (SCP). The union has argued SCP staff should be transferred to education training boards (ETB), or the child and family agency Tusla, to underpin governance and give national leadership to the service. Fórsa said SCP employees should also be given the same employment status as other public servants.