Karen Smyth, a secretary with St Anne's NS on the picket line in Navan

'There was a very positive response to the strike all around the country and it has really motivated secretaries to keep going.'

School secretaries across the country began industrial action last week in a dispute over pay and working conditions. Secretaries at 250 schools in 22 countries went out on strike on Friday for one hour and afterwards began a work-to-rule. The dispute centres around a two-tier pay system.

Secretaries employed by individual school management boards can earn as little as €12,500 a year, have non-permanent contracts with no occupational pensions, and must sign on when schools are closed. In contrast, other secretaries employed by the Department of Education enjoy public servant status, along with higher pay rates, permanent contracts and pension entitlements.Karen Smyth from Navan is a secretary at St Anne's NS, she says she was overwhelmed by the support she received on the picket line, 

TD Shane Cassells joined secretary Karen Smyth and St Anne's NS princpal Cliodhna O' Bric in protest

"There was a very positive response to the strike all around the country and it has really motivated secretaries to keep going. People were coming up to me on Friday morning wishing me well and saying they hoped things worked out. It gives you the confidence to go on when people are recognising that you do actually deserve respect from the Department of Education. "My principal Cliodhna O'Bric has been very supportive and stood out with me on the picket line." 

Also out on the picket line showing solidarity with Karen and secretaries across the country was Fianna Fail TD for West Meath, Shane Cassells,   "The issues of inequalities within the school system has to be addressed. We can't have a situation where employees within schools are effectively not employees because they are being paid out of an auxiliary grant, they are laid off within the summer months and they don't have the same terms and conditions.

"School secretaries are the front of house person that engages with parents, staff members and people that come into the school. It is essential that the minister recognises the work that they do and that he stops this archaic practise." A work to rule has now commenced with secretaries having limited interaction with the department of education.