Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has offered his full support to primary and secondary school secretaries nationwide following the news that more than 1,000 of them will serve notice of industrial action next week, with first strike action to take place on Friday October 23rd.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “Sinn Féin fully support school secretaries in their ongoing campaign for equality, fair pay and decent working conditions. This action is the last thing that they wanted – they have been forced to do so after years of being neglected and treated abysmally by successive governments.
“School secretaries played a crucial role in getting schools reopened for kids, and keeping the schools safe. The jobs they do vary greatly – schools would grind to a halt without them.
“They are the face of the school, welcoming visitors, as well as organising rotas, lunch menus, correspondence, and a long list of other roles. If a child is hurt, they often go to the secretary. They are trusted and respected by parents, teachers and children alike.
“Despite this many secretaries across the country are facing enormous inequalities in terms of pay and working conditions. Pay varies radically from school to school.
“Some secretaries earn just €12,500 a year, and are on irregular short-term contracts which force them to sign on during the summer holidays.
“As many do not qualify for pension entitlements, those looking ahead to retirement are understandably concerned as to how they will manage.
“For many school secretaries, this is therefore not just about fairness but potential hardship. Their incomes are so limited that they are extremely concerned for the future. This is an issue that must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“This situation is particularly regrettable given the Minister for Education Norma Foley’s party Fianna Fáil committed to establishing a pathway to end pay disparity for secretaries during the General Election.
“Now that Fianna Fáil are in power, it seems that they have forgotten this promise. As it stands, this government has in fact regressed further from the previous government’s position.
“The government must immediately engage in real, meaningful negotiations to resolve this. They have to confront the real issues secretaries face. Until then, and until pay equality and improved working conditions are secured, the campaign will continue and Sinn Féin will support them.”