Arbitration finding represents first collective bargaining outcome for secretaries and caretakers

secretariesAn arbitration finding by arbitrator Kevin Foley (who has been subsequently appointed Labour Court deputy chairman) has recommended four separate pay rises of 2.5 per cent for school secretaries and caretakers, who are paid from grant funding, between 2016 and 2019.

Under the proposals school secretaries and caretakers, employed directly by boards of management in State-funded schools, would see their minimum hourly rates increase from €10.25 to €13 an hour over the period. The finding means that these workers, irrespective of their current rate of pay, will benefit from a cumulative pay increase of almost 11% over the next four years. Those earning less than the minimum will benefit by a higher percentage.

The finding comes after a sustained campaign by IMPACT trade union, and follows a commitment to secure a collectively bargained outcome in talks conducted in tandem with the Lansdowne Road discussions in May this year.

Caretakers and secretaries pay rates vary, as they are determined by the individual board of management of each school, and paid from the ancillary grants paid to the schools by the Department of Education and Skills. Almost all are paid below the scale paid to equivalent public service workers, including a minority of secretaries and caretakers who are paid directly by the department.


IMPACT deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan said that the arbitration finding had not eliminated the two-tier pay sytstem but the proposals would end the most exploitative practices.
“Until now we had no collective agreement for staff employed directly by their schools. We had no forum within which to set agreed levels of pay, and employers took no responsibility at all for the erratic and unfair system that was in place.

“This is a significant result because it sets an improving standard over the next four years, and gives us an established rate of pay, with certainty on pay improvements over the period. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it does close the gap. As such, it marks a vital first step. Most significantly, the total gain over the lifetime of this deal will be almost four times the amount deducted under FEMPI,” he said.

Kevin added that the union’s campaign to establish a standard rate of pay began at a time when a few individual employers were paying less than the national minimum wage. “These were the most extreme examples, but our own survey revealed that there was a substantial range of payments.

“The economic crisis prevented the establishment of a forum to make an assessment on school secretary and caretaker pay. We argued that the failure to treat these workers in line with others employed by boards of management such as teachers, special needs assistants – and even other secretaries – was deeply unfair. The additional imposition of FEMPI cuts in 2010 added insult to injury. They were only considered to be public servants for the purposes of imposing a pay cut.

“We believe that the proposals will make it easier for the union to tackle the gap between the pay of grant-funded and department-paid staff in the discussions recommended by the arbitrator. Those discussions are due to take place in 2019. We will not rest until parity is achieved,” he said.


The arbitration finding is to be treated as binding by the Department of Education and Skills and by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform. This was noted by the Education DEC.

The recommendation establishes a ‘floor’ rate of pay which should apply on 1st January 2016, and should be the minimum rate payable to the secretaries and caretakers after that date. The ‘floor’ should then be adjusted on the same date each year up to and including 1st January 2019.

In addition, the arbitrator rules, a pay adjustment of 2.5% should apply to all caretakers and secretaries covered by the claim on 1st January 2016, 1st April 2018 and 1st January 2019.

  • 1st January 2016 – Floor rate of €10.25 should be put in place (inclusive of 2016, 2.5% pay adjustment)
  • 1st January 2017 – Floor rate of €10.75 should be put in place – pay adjustment of 2.5% on Ist April 2017 leading to a floor of €11.01 with effect from 1st April 2017
  • 1st January 2018 – Floor rate of €11.50 should be put in place – pay adjustment 2.5% on Ist April 2018 leading to a Floor rate of €11.79 with effect from 1st April 2018
  • 1st January 2019 – Floor rate of €13.00 should be put in place (inclusive of 2019, 2.5% pay adjustment).

Information meetings

The union will commence a series of information meetings for secretaries and caretakers. The purpose of the meetings is to inform members of the details of the arbitration findings and to outline the union’s pay strategy over the 2016-2018 period. The meetings commence in Dublin this Saturday as follows:

  • Dublin – IMPACT head office, Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1, Saturday 21st November at 12.30pm
  • Limerick – IMPACT office, Roxboro Road, Limerick, Monday 23rd November at 7pm
  • Letterkenny –  3A Killashulan Court (above Tobin’s Garage) Port Road, Letterkenny Monday November 23rd  at 7pm
  • Cork – IMPACT office, Fr. Mathew’s Quay, Tuesday 24th November at at 7pm
  • Athlone – Athlone Education Centre, Moydrum Road, Athlone, Thursday 26th November at 7pm
  • Galway – IMPACT office, Unit 23/24 Sean Mulvoy Business Park, Sean Mulvoy Road, Thursday 26th November at 5pm
  • Kildare – Kildare Education Centre, Friary Road, Kildare Town, Monday 30th November at 7.30pm
  • Dundalk – Crowne Plaza Hotel, Tuesday 1st December at 7pm