About 1,000 school secretaries have said they will continue their battle for “fairness” and “equality” until their job is taken seriously by the Department of Education as they continue with work-to-rule strike action.
The secretaries are at a disadvantage because they work in the voluntary, predominantly Catholic, sector.
Secretaries from several Catholic schools told this paper at a demonstration outside the Dáil last week about having to sign on to social welfare during school holidays to supplement their income, while others have to work another job. Many of them do not have pensions or sick pay despite working in their school for decades.
School and also parish secretary Sylvia Leonard from Our Lady’s Grove in Goatstown, Co. Dublin, said: “We have to double job, the inequality is just outrageous. We’re in 2020, we’re in modern Ireland, are you kidding me? I’m at a loss to understand where the minister is at. It’s mainly a huge number of women and it’s about time he dealt with situation and man up.”
Last week’s strike follows talks with the Government and trade union Fórsa in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) which have so far failed. The secretaries are calling for the end of a “two-tier” system which leaves most secretaries earning about €12,000 a year.
Just under 1,000 school secretaries are paid directly by the State, employed by either the Department of Education or State education and training boards. Schools have said limited funding mean they can’t pay secretaries adequately.
Grave Keevans of Holy Child Primary School in Naas, Co. Kildare said: “I think if you look in any school you’ll realise the principal and the secretary work in tandem, and in a lot of cases the secretary will take a lot of the flak from parents and everybody coming in.
“I also think it’s a job with huge responsibility, I worked in logistics for years and moved to this, love the school, love the children, but I’m paid half of what I would have been paid had I stayed in logistics.”
Debbie de Paor from Scoil Santain in Tallaght said despite being in the job for 20 years, “I walk away with nothing, it’s so unfair”.
“Your job isn’t guaranteed, really it is disgraceful. I myself am putting more and more things onto secretaries, we have to look after payments for subs, we have to put kids in on the department’s website, names, addresses, date of births, PPS numbers, now it’s up to us to do it. Our wages didn’t go up significantly for what we’ve taken on,” she added.
Fórsa said the secretaries will refuse to carry out the functions of public servants, because they have repeatedly been refused public service pay and conditions over the last four decades