Protesters at Glór Na Mara in Tramore, County Waterford
Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane has said that his party stands with school secretaries, and that the Department of Education must engage critically with them to meet their needs.
This morning Deputy Cullinane joined school secretaries in Waterford city on the picket line as they begun an indefinite work-to-rule action until their modest demands are met.
“These staff are invaluable members of our school and our communities, often working above and beyond their job requirements," he told WaterfordLive.ie.
“They work on the front line, and are the first port of call for parents and students. Without them, our schools would simply not function.
“At its heart this dispute centres on the fact that the majority of school secretaries, over 3,0000, receive less than €13,000 a year with irregular, short-term contracts and no pay during summer holidays or school breaks. This is compounded by the inequality that persists between them and the few hundred school secretaries who are paid directly by the Department of Education with starting salaries of €24,000."
Deputy Cullinane said the education system's need for school secretaries "cannot be disputed". He added: “Minister Joe McHugh was made aware of their job insecurity and this two-tier pay structure in May and has dragged his heels in reaching an agreement.
“The minister will claim that specific responsibility for the pay and conditions of these workers rests with schools through the capitation grants they receive, and not his department.
“As the Government knows well, schools rely on the capitation grant to cover running costs such as heating, lighting, insurance costs and teaching materials. It is unacceptable to force schools to choose between secure pay and conditions for their secretaries or the heating and lighting of their classrooms.
“They have low pay, no holiday pay, no sick pay, no real job security, certainly no occupational pensions and no access to public service salary scales.
“The public service should be a leader in providing fair pay and conditions for employees, but school secretaries have fallen through the cracks."