Drogheda Deputy Mayor and Louth County Council member Michelle Hall has been denied paid time off from work to undertake council duties because she is a special needs assistant (SNA).
Despite the support of her school, the Department of Education and Skills has denied her paid time off, which she could avail of if she were a teacher. The Deputy Mayor took to Twitter yesterday (Tuesday) to say she thought she was the first SNA to be elected as a county councillor.
“The Department of Education and Science informed both my supportive school and my union Fórsa that I must take unpaid leave. So far I’ve had to take three unpaid leave days to attend meetings. It’s unfair, unequal and unacceptable,” she said.
The head of Fórsa’s Education Division, Andy Pike, said the union had lodged a claim for SNAs and other non-teaching staff to get the same leave provisions as teachers in similar circumstances. Teachers who are councillors are allowed up to ten days’ paid leave to attend meetings held during school opening hours.
“I was told yesterday that Michelle has been denied time off to attend council meetings, and the Department of Education thinks that's just fine. Well it’s not fine, and it’s not on.
“This is yet another example of discrimination against SNAs and other non-teaching staff in our two-tier education system. And it potentially undermines our local democracy by making it hard – if not impossible – for lower paid elected members to carry out their representative duties,” he said.