Written answers

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Department of Education and Skills

School Services Staff

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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77. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 97 of 26 September 2019, the steps being taken to ensure that the appropriate wage structure of €13 per hour is paid out by the schools in respect of caretakers employed by voluntary secondary schools and whose wages are funded by way of capital grants paid to the school; when the new agreement that will replace the current arbitration agreement, which expires on 31 December 2019, will come into force; the sanctions available to caretakers if the schools employing them have failed to implement the agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45889/19]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools. I have spoken to a number of staff about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

In Budget 2020 I increased the number of secretaries and caretakers in certain schools, allowing schools with enrolments of 700 or more to fill caretaker vacancies provided they have fewer than two caretakers; schools with enrolments of 500-625 to fill secretary vacancies provided they have fewer than 1.5 secretaries, and schools with enrolments of 626-699 to fill vacancies provided they have fewer than two posts filled. These measures will take effect from September 2020.

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ additional school secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of clerical officers and caretakers in schools. The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes. The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes. It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019.

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.

The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator’s recommendation applies. My Department receives informal correspondence by telephone in respect of grant-funded secretary and caretaker circulars, as regularly occurs with the publication of pay circulars. Advice is provided on the implementation of the circular and the appropriate steps to take. Caretakers and Secretaries who have queries regarding the application of the circular should raise queries directly with their individual employer / Board of Management.

In addition, the recent survey of Secretaries and Caretakers has identified some schools that are non-compliant with the provisions of the 2015 Arbitration Agreement, and my Department will be making contact with these schools to remind them of their obligations under the agreement, as implemented through various circulars. The links below will bring you to the most recent circulars in respect of the pay increases under the 2015 Arbitration Agreement.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0076_2018.pdf.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0077_2018.pdf.

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim.

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives in September. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action.

On 30 September FÓRSA requested the Department to agree to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute. As is normal practice the Department has agreed to use the industrial relations machinery of the state in an effort to resolve this matter.

In order to address the various issues within the claim and to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the Department is in discussions with FÓRSA under the auspices of the WRC.

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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78. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the 10% increase that was recommended by the arbitrator for the payment of caretakers by voluntary schools between 2016 and 2019 was implemented; if caretakers that did not receive the graduated increase between the years are now entitled to arrears and backdating of their pay to cover the period between 2016 and 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45890/19]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools. I have spoken to a number of staff about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

In Budget 2020 I increased the number of secretaries and caretakers in certain schools, allowing schools with enrolments of 700 or more to fill caretaker vacancies provided they have fewer than two caretakers; schools with enrolments of 500-625 to fill secretary vacancies provided they have fewer than 1.5 secretaries, and schools with enrolments of 626-699 to fill vacancies provided they have fewer than two posts filled. These measures will take effect from September 2020.

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ additional school secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of clerical officers and caretakers in schools. The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes. The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes. It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019.

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.

The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator’s recommendation applies. My Department receives informal correspondence by telephone in respect of grant-funded secretary and caretaker circulars, as regularly occurs with the publication of pay circulars. Advice is provided on the implementation of the circular and the appropriate steps to take. Caretakers and Secretaries who have queries regarding the application of the circular should raise queries directly with their individual employer / Board of Management.

In addition, the recent survey of Secretaries and Caretakers has identified some schools that are non-compliant with the provisions of the 2015 Arbitration Agreement, and my Department will be making contact with these schools to remind them of their obligations under the agreement, as implemented through various circulars. The links below will bring you to the most recent circulars in respect of the pay increases under the 2015 Arbitration Agreement.

.

.

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim.

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives in September. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action.

On 30 September FÓRSA requested the Department to agree to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute. As is normal practice the Department has agreed to use the industrial relations machinery of the state in an effort to resolve this matter.

In order to address the various issues within the claim and to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the Department is in discussions with FÓRSA under the auspices of the WRC.

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context

79. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if an assessment of the conditions of caretakers in secondary schools will be carried out to ensure that the disadvantages that they have sustained over a number of years will be remedied and that the appropriate work and conditions applicable to all employees nationwide, such as entitlement to overtime or other such benefits are catered for in new agreements that will be reached; if the direct employment of caretakers in schools will be considered rather than leaving the issue of remuneration such employees directly to the schools themselves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45891/19]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools. I have spoken to a number of staff about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

In Budget 2020 I increased the number of secretaries and caretakers in certain schools, allowing schools with enrolments of 700 or more to fill caretaker vacancies provided they have fewer than two caretakers; schools with enrolments of 500-625 to fill secretary vacancies provided they have fewer than 1.5 secretaries, and schools with enrolments of 626-699 to fill vacancies provided they have fewer than two posts filled. These measures will take effect from September 2020.

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ additional school secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of clerical officers and caretakers in schools. The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes. The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes. It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019.

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.

The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator’s recommendation applies.My Department receives informal correspondence by telephone in respect of grant-funded secretary and caretaker circulars, as regularly occurs with the publication of pay circulars. Advice is provided on the implementation of the circular and the appropriate steps to take. Caretakers and Secretaries who have queries regarding the application of the circular should raise queries directly with their individual employer / Board of Management.

In addition, the recent survey of Secretaries and Caretakers has identified some schools that are non-compliant with the provisions of the 2015 Arbitration Agreement, and my Department will be making contact with these schools to remind them of their obligations under the agreement, as implemented through various circulars. The links below will bring you to the most recent circulars in respect of the pay increases under the 2015 Arbitration Agreement.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0076_2018.pdf.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0077_2018.pdf.

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9thof April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim.

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives in September. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action.

On 30 September FÓRSA requested the Department to agree to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute. As is normal practice the Department has agreed to use the industrial relations machinery of the state in an effort to resolve this matter.

In order to address the various issues within the claim and to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the Department is in discussions with FÓRSA under the auspices of the WRC.

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context

80. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the amount made available to pay caretakers in the respect of the scheme introduced in 2009, which provided extensive capitation grants to voluntary schools to employ caretakers and came into being following the withdrawal of the original employment scheme in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45892/19]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of clerical officers and caretakers in schools. The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.

Voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes. The main grants are the Capitation Grant to cater for day to day running costs such as heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, general up-keep etc. and the School Services Support Fund (SSSF), Secretary and Caretaker Grants to cater for the cost of employing ancillary services staff. Schools are permitted to regard the capitation and SSSF Grant as a combined grant.

The following are links to the most recent circulars published on my Department’s website in relation to capitation, SSSF, Secretary and Caretaker funding.

.

.

It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for terms of employment rests with the Board of Management of the school.

My Department provided €92 million in capitation funding to Voluntary Secondary Schools in the Free Education Scheme in 2018. This includes SSSF funding of €37m to cater for the cost of employing ancillary services staff including Caretakers. It also includes funding of €5m to provide for costs specifically associated with the employment of caretakers.

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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81. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of voluntary secondary schools and private schools that receive assistance by way of capitation grant to provide for secretarial caretaking services; the system used to allocate to each school the particular amount to enable them to meet their particular needs in these areas; the supervision in place to ensure that persons employed in roles such as caretaking are paid the appropriate rate and have the relevant employment conditions appropriately applied in each situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45893/19]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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My Department provides assistance to 330 Voluntary Secondary Schools in the Free Education Scheme towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. Fee charging schools do not receive any capitation related grant funding from my Department.

Voluntary secondary schools, in the Free Education scheme, are funded by way of per capita grants.

The main grants are the Capitation Grant to cater for day to day running costs such as heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, general up-keep etc. and the School Services Support Fund (SSSF), Secretary and Caretaker Grants to cater for the cost of employing ancillary services staff. Schools are permitted to regard the Capitation and SSSF Grant as a combined grant.

The following are links to the most recent circulars published on my Department’s website in relation to capitation, SSSF, Secretary and Caretaker funding.

.

.

It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for terms of employment rests with the Board of Management of the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019.

The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator’s recommendation applies. My Department receives informal correspondence by telephone in respect of grant-funded secretary and caretaker circulars, as regularly occurs with the publication of pay circulars. Advice is provided on the implementation of the circular and the appropriate steps to take. Caretakers and Secretaries who have queries regarding the application of the circular should raise queries directly with their individual employer / Board of Management.

In addition, the recent survey of Secretaries and Caretakers has identified some schools that are non-compliant with the provisions of the 2015 Arbitration Agreement, and my Department will be making contact with these schools to remind them of their obligations under the agreement, as implemented through various circulars.

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