Industrial action is looming for the school sector in the months ahead due to long-standing disputes around pay and entitlements, and more recent concerns around safety in classrooms.
Approximately 1,000 school secretaries are expected to hold three one-day work stoppages throughout the month as part of a longstanding dispute related to insecure employment and low pay.
This could possibly be followed by the resumption of indefinite strike action following correspondence this week between Norma Foley, the minister for education, and Fórsa, the union that represents more than half of school secretaries. Talks between the two parties at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on Thursday also failed to resolve the dispute.
According to Fórsa, a two-tier system leaves most secretaries earning just €12,500 a year, with irregular, short-term contracts that force them to sign on during school holidays. The union has sought to have this group employed under public service terms in line with their colleagues working for ETBs.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said it made an offer of a pay increase at the WRC this week but it was not "acceptable" to Fórsa.
"The union has requested that the claims be referred to the Labour Court. As neither the Department of Education, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) nor the management bodies are the employers of the staff in question, there are technical issues to consider from the request for a referral," the spokesman said.
The department is considering this and will reply to the request shortly, he added.
Meanwhile, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) is balloting its members this month on industrial action relating to health and safety concerns around Covid-19.
Members of the union are also being balloted on changes to work practices in some schools without consultation. A separate ballot is also being held in relation to pay parity in the profession. The postal ballot will take place in mid-October, with papers to be sent to members' home addresses shortly.