Oireachtas Secretarial Assistants: Motion

I move:

“That Seanad Éireann:

recognises:

- the fundamental and integral role that political staff play in supporting the work of the Houses of the Oireachtas;

- the particular value of political staff to Senators in their parliamentary role, through supporting the legislative and policy development work of the House and its Committees in addition to their administrative roles;

- that it is in the interests of Senators and the work of the Seanad to hire and retain staff members with appropriate experience and qualifications;

- that staff should be remunerated appropriately and at a salary level that reflects their role and responsibilities as the primary support to members of the House;

notes:

- that the starting point on the salary scale for a Secretarial Assistant is €23,180.97 and that this salary level has not been reviewed since prior to 2002;

- that the role of Secretarial Assistants has evolved since its introduction and that Seanad Secretarial Assistants are now expected to assist in parliamentary work of a higher standard;

- the results of a recent Oireachtas Human Resources internal survey of political staff which found that Seanad Secretarial Assistants are performing similar work to Dáil Parliamentary Assistants employed on a starting salary scale point of €41,092;

- that a pay claim was submitted in October 2018 by SIPTU on behalf of their members to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission calling for a review of the Secretarial Assistant pay scale;

- that the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission has forwarded the claim to the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform for costing and that there has been a subsequent lack of progress thereof;

further notes:

- recommendations 8.13 and 8.14 of the Report of the Implementation Group on Seanad Reform 2018 called for increased resourcing of secretarial and policy support for Senators;

- the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Annual Reports show a marked increase in Seanad sitting hours since the 2016 election (including an 18% increase in 2018) without a corresponding change to staff pay scales;

- that the Secretarial Assistant pay scale is outdated, does not reflect the reality of the role and needs to be reviewed;

- that the job title of Secretarial Assistant itself does not accurately reflect the nature of the work and should also be reviewed;

- that Secretarial Assistants increasingly have to rely on unguaranteed overtime payments to make a living wage which is estimated in Dublin to be €30,908.59 per annum;

- that low salary levels combined with the inherently precarious nature of the work has implications for the ability of political staff to engage in long-term financial planning and access credit;

- that Leinster House can be a high-pressure and stressful environment in which to work and this can be compounded by concerns around personal finances with a corresponding impact on productivity;

- that low pay is an issue for secretarial staff both in the Dáil and the Seanad and is in need of a broader review;

acknowledges:

- the cross-Chamber support for improved pay and conditions for political staff expressed by members in Seanad Éireann during its meeting of 4th December, 2019; and

calls on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform:

- to commit to meeting Seanad Secretarial Assistants and their union representatives as a matter of urgency and to agree a timeline to deal with the issues raised in the pay claim;

- to expedite the pay claim to ensure a new salary scale and improved conditions can be implemented prior to the next Seanad General Election;

- to review the roles and remuneration of secretarial staff in the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

I second the motion.

Question put and agreed to.