The Department is aware of the vitally important role played by school secretaries in the running of our schools.
In recognition of this role, special COVID-19 working arrangements were put in place and the Employee Assistance Service was extended to grant funded staff. The Department also previously fully implemented and funded the 2015 recommendations of an independent arbitrator for a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.
Fórsa trade union has tabled a follow-on claim and officials from the Department and school management bodies have been engaging with Fórsa on the issues. A process of engagement has taken place at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and an understanding has been agreed on a pathway to progress the issues with a phased approach being taken to the development of proposals.
The Department is actively seeking to engage with Fórsa in an effort to resolve the issue as part of an ongoing IR process under the auspices of the WRC. Industrial action would impact on the day-to-day operation of schools at a time when so much effort has gone into ensuring they could open and stay open during the pandemic. The Department would appeal to school secretaries and to Fórsa to defer this planned action to allow further early and intensive discussions to take place.