Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Education and Skills
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 this 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.
The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under grant schemes. Where a school employs a staff member to support those functions those staff are employees of individual schools and responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.
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 support the continued meaningful dialogue between the parties 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. I welcome Fórsa’s recent announcement to defer industrial action and their commitment to resuming engagement with all parties at the WRC.