Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, has said that he stands with striking school secretaries and that the Department of Education must engage critically with them to meet their needs.

Friday morning, thousands of school secretaries across the country will be going on strike before beginning an indefinite work-to-rule action until their modest demands are met.

Teachta Crowe said;

“These staff are invaluable members of our school and our communities, often working above and beyond their job requirements.

“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.

“I want to put on record that they have the full support of myself and Sinn Féin.

“At its heart this dispute centres on the fact that the majority of school secretaries, over three thousand, earn as little as €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.

“Our schools cannot function without them. Our education system needs them. That cannot be disputed.

“That is why their claim is justified; to be employed as public servants, with the same contractual security as their colleagues.”

Crowe continued:

“The Department of Education have failed to seriously engage with school staff or their union representatives to resolve this issue.

“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.”