Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (425)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

425. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a campaign (details supplied) in particular the demand to be treated like other public sector workers in terms of pay and conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20159/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I recognise the very important work done by school secretaries, and indeed by other support staff, in the running of our schools and I am grateful to them for the contribution they make to our education system.  I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in schools.  The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. 

These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.  The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991. 

I have recently relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ an additional School Secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes.  It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools.  Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.  This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019. 

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a Secretary or Caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay. 

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9 of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

The FÓRSA trade union have requested a meeting with the Department to discuss pay arrangements for grant-funded Secretaries and Caretakers from 2020 onwards. The Department has agreed to arrange a meeting with the Union and is currently making arrangements for this meeting to take place in late May/early June.