SCHOOL SECRETARIES HIT OUT OVER PAY AND WORKING CONDITIONS
The IMPACT union representative for the local area has this week highlighted the plight of school secretaries and the working conditions they have to endure in the east Cork region.
Speaking to The Avondhu, Josephine Daly said, “There is a two tier system with school secretaries, a small minority of secretaries are paid by the Dept of Education. They are on a salary scale and many, but not all, have pensions. Any school secretary employed from 1979 is paid through an ancillary grant paid directly to boards of managements".
"This grant is meant for the school secretary and the caretaker. The rate is dependent on the number of pupils in a school. As with other grants, schools do not have to specifically pass this on to the secretary or caretaker, many schools use this money for other purposes.”
THE SAME RATE
Josephine added that many school secretaries that have contacted her are on the same rate of pay with 10 to 15 years, which is just above the minimum wage.
“They are not entitled to sick pay, pensions or salary scales. I personally worked as a school secretary for 9 years in a primary school and received about 1/3 of the ancillary grant paid to the school. When I asked for a pay increase after 4 years of not having one, I was told by the principal that I was lucky to have a job and they could get 100 people to do my work for the minimum wage.”
“The CPSMA (the management body of primary schools) advised my school not to meet with my union and not to entertain my request. At the time I thought that this principal was the exception. However, speaking with several secretaries, this is the normal way secretaries around the country are being treated. Principals are union members themselves and would not recognise my union or entertain that I had job entitlements.”
Josephine Daly added, “The role of the school secretary is one that is totally underestimated, they deal with parents, children, work as personal assistants to the principal, school accounts, ordering, purchasing, filing, printing, photocopying, database management, reception duties, payroll and in many cases they also do the treasurer’s job".
"Most records are now online and more and more of these duties have been passed onto the secretary as more often then not are the most computer literate person in the school. They are responsible for text a parent (a facility where all family mobile numbers are inputted by the secretary) the OLCS (online claims system) and NEWB (National Educational Welfare Board) to name but a few of their duties.”
Wages cut Josephine continued to say that the Department of Education will not put secretaries on salary scales as they say they are not the employer but in November 2010 they issued a circular to boards of managements to decrease all secretaries, caretakers and cleaning staff by 5% - saying for ‘this purpose only we will be classed as public servants’.
“This is absolutely outrageous as most have had no increase for 10 years or more, and that along with the universal social charge is totally crippling already 17,000 of the lowest paid workers.”
“During the good years of benchmarking and pay increases the secretaries were totally forgotten. Secretaries are not paid for holidays like teachers and sign-on for 12 weeks of the year.”
BULLYING AND INTIMIDATION
“As secretaries are isolated, we have had several accounts of bullying and intimidation in the work place when having asked for minimal rights. Lobbying politicians A group of secretaries in North Cork meet regularly, offering support to other secretaries in the area and letting them know that they are not alone in their fight for equality".
"However, many are afraid to publicly put their name to this article for fear of repercussions in their job", Josephine added.
Josephine told The Avondhu that, in the run up the general election, they started a ‘support the school secretaries’ campaign and had contacted politicians all over Ireland to help.
“We are asking all school secretaries to lobby their politicians and make them aware of our situation,” Josephine concluded.
TD Sean Sherlock told The Avondhu that he believes that school secretaries and cleaners employment conditions needed to be looked at.
“There appears to be a glaring difference between different schools and different areas. The state should intervene to guarantee basic employment rights and rates of pay.”
If you are a school secretary in the area and would like to contact a member of that group you can telephone 086-1005902.
Thursday 17th February 5:48pm