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Minister O'Keeffe must address exploitation of school secretaries and caretakers - Doherty

8 May, 2008

Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty called on the new Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe to address the unacceptable situation whereby school secretaries and caretakers across the state are receiving disparate rates of pay and conditions.

Senator Doherty secured a debate with the Minister as a matter on the adjournment of the Seanad.

He said, "A two-tier system currently exists where some school secretaries, employed before the implementation of the programme for Economic and Social progress (PESP) in 1990 are paid directly by the Department of Education and Science (under the 1978/79 Scheme). Those employed after the PESP are paid out of the ancillary grant given to the school boards, out of which other vital school expenses are paid.

"Consequently, those school secretaries employed post 1990 do not enjoy a standardised rate of pay, with some earning barely above the minimum wage. Indeed, in a recent study and survey undertaken by Impact trade union it was found that there are school secretaries around the country earning less than the minimum wage.

"When I raised this issue on the Order of Business on the 24th April, my colleague, leader of the Seanad Donie Cassidy thanked me for raising the issue as he was unaware of it and described it as 'a serious allegation and state of affairs' and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

"This is an appalling situation and gross exploitation of a group of workers so important to day to day running of schools. In my own county of Donegal a school secretary was found to be working for two schools where one paid €10 per hour and the other paid €7.70 per hour.

"The study carried out by Impact certainly made for some startling reading. It was found in every region surveyed that practically all school secretaries employed under the PESP Scheme had no access to some of the most basic of working conditions.

"School secretaries and caretakers provide a vital service to schools around the country and the fact they these people are being denied some of the most basic of workers rights is nothing less than scandalous.

"This issue must be immediately addressed in order to right the wrongs of worker exploitation which at the moment is ongoing. Incoming Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe must address this issue as a matter of urgency." ENDS

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