Written answers

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Department of Education and Skills

School Staff

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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97. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made to grant the same terms and conditions for school secretaries that are not employed by her Department or an education and training board, ETB. [29971/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I am keenly aware of the vital role contributed by school secretaries within school communities and I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools. I have met with Fórsa, who represent many of the secretaries working in schools.

In recognition of their role, I have put special arrangements in place for the coming school year whereby schools will be funded to employ a replacement secretary or caretaker in the event that staff who are at very high risk of contracting serious illness from COVID-19 cannot work on the school premises. I have also extended the Employee Assistance Service to all school staff including secretaries.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department implemented the 2015 recommendations of an independent arbitrator. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.

Fórsa trade union has tabled a follow-on claim from the 2015 agreement. Officials from my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and School Management Bodies met with Fórsa on 1 October under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

I am very keen that all parties resume meaningful discussion in the WRC with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable solution. In that respect, I have asked my officials to examine closely pay issues for secretaries and caretakers, as well as very important wider matters relating to their conditions of work, in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The WRC process remains ongoing and I support the continued engagement between all parties in an effort to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

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