Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has expressed his disappointment at the unwillingness of the Department of Education to tackle the major issues facing school secretaries following unsuccessful outcomes to hearings at the Workplace Relations Commission today.
The school secretaries, represented by the Fórsa Trade Union, are now considering resuming and escalating industrial action.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “School secretaries have played a crucial role in the reopening of schools and in keeping schools safe. It is hard to list all the things that a school secretary might do in the day, but you can be sure that our schools would grind to a halt without them.
“For years, many school secretaries have faced unequal pay as well as poor conditions. Many are paid as little as €12,000 per annum, have no occupational pension, no entitlement to sick leave, and no incremental pay increases.
“It is shameful that it has gone on so long.
“The Department today went to the WRC unwilling to truly consider a solution to all these issues, following on from a dismissive attitude from the Department in a letter last week, which sought to limit the scope of discussion.
“This cannot be put off forever – this inequality has persisted for too long already.
“It is particularly regrettable given that the Green Party and Fianna Fáil manifestos had committed to resolving this issue.
“In fact the position of this government is even worse than the previous one, which at least accepted that this was an issue, and that a process needed to be established to resolve it.
“That now seems to be off the table, and the government is making no attempt to resolve the inequality.
“I urge the department to reconsider this position. Secretaries are looking at industrial action because they have been dragged along for years. It is the last thing they want at this time.
“I urge Minister Foley to bring the department back to the table. It is in their gift to engage in real meaningful negotiations, to get to the real issues, and to resolve this.”