Written answers

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Department of Education and Skills

School Staff

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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301. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in relation to the terms and conditions of school secretaries and caretakers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49707/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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School secretaries and caretakers are valued members of our school communities and my Department is fully aware of the vitally important role played by them in the running of our schools.

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 these functions those staff are employees of individual schools and responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

The Department previously fully implemented and funded the 2015 recommendations of an independent arbitrator for 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 and officials from the Department and school management bodies have been engaging with Fórsa on the issues. On the 27th of October 2020, under the auspices of the WRC, an understanding was agreed on a pathway to progress the issues. Several key strands have been identified, and a phased approach is being taken to the development of proposals.

Following intensive discussions at the WRC on 13th September, there has been significant progress in this dispute. Subject to agreement on all elements of the claim, the Department has offered to move School Secretaries’ pay rates to a scale which is aligned with the Clerical Officer Grade III pay scale within education and training boards on a pro rata basis with an effective date of implementation for these new pay arrangements of 1st September 2021. Pay rates will be pro rata according to a secretary’s current working pattern. The assimilation of School Secretaries to the CO Grade III pay scale will require further dialogue between the parties and further engagement is taking place at present to allow this to be finalised.

My Department has also offered to improve the conditions for School Secretaries with regard to sick leave, annual leave and maternity provisions for this cohort of staff. This will take place via direct engagement with the unions in the coming weeks in addition to engagement on other elements of the claim and subject to all elements being agreed.

While there is agreement in principle to take the same approach to the consideration of appropriate pay and conditions of grant funded caretakers there remains a deficit of data on working terms and conditions of such staff. When the final package for secretaries has been agreed and an implementation plan in place for schools and DE, that intensive engagement will begin on regularising the pay and conditions of grant funded caretakers.

I welcomed the deferral of the action scheduled for Wednesday 15th September and I encourage all parties to focus on finalising an agreement.

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