School secretaries have secured a breakthrough in their industrial action against the department of education.
They have been on a work-to-rule looking for an end to what they call a "two-tier pay system".
Just 10% of them have contracts.
Yesterday, Education Minister Joe McHugh agreed to talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Fórsa Education organiser Andy Pike says it came as a dramatic turnaround.
"We have the unusual situation of the education minister opening up the debate in the House at 5.30pm saying that the government wouldn't go to the WRC and closing the debate at 7.15pm by changing his mind and saying they would," said Mr Pike.
"We very much welcome this. The start of talks in the WRC is the first positive step towards resolving this issue and making sure that secretaries across the school sector are paid fairly."
Minister of State Seán Canney last night claimed credit for what he called a "breakthrough."
He says he brokered the behind-the-scenes talks that led to Minister McHugh agreeing to talks.
"This is the first step in trying to find a solution to this saga which has been ongoing for the past four decades," said Mr McHugh.
"We will hopefully find a solution. This is a very important first step and a very positive one.
"It is very important for the school secretaries and the caretakers who have been fighting and campaigning for this for many years."