Around 1,000 school secretaries and caretakers on low pay with no job security are to have their conditions of employment "regularised" under a preliminary agreement reached at the Workplace Relations Commission this evening. 

The secretaries and caretakers represented by Fórsa were planning to strike on 23 October, 2 November and 16 November, with an indefinite strike due to commence thereafter if their dispute remained unresolved.

However, Fórsa had deferred the industrial action to allow for talks. 

The dispute centres on a two-tier pay system for school secretaries and caretakers. 

Those employed by Education and Training Boards have the status, terms and conditions of public servants.

However, those employed directly by boards of management in schools can earn as little as €12,500 per year, with no sick pay, holiday pay or increments - and many are forced to sign on for social welfare during school breaks. 

This evening, Fórsa's head of education Andy Pike described today's outcome as an "enabling agreement" with the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to regularise the status of school secretaries and caretakers paid through grants with respect to their wages, pensions and conditions of employment.

He said final costings had not yet been completed, and there was a lot of work to be done on the details. 

Asked when the staff in question would see an improvement in their pay and conditions, he said that detailed talks about implementation will now commence.

Mr Pike voiced hope that they would conclude in February, but added that was not a "hard and fast" deadline. 

He hoped staff could be balloted on the outcome before the summer break next year, and that the implementation date would be the start of the 2021 school year. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said that - at the invitation of the WRC - representatives from Fórsa and the management side met today to discuss the related terms and conditions claims of school secretaries and caretakers.

She said it was agreed that further discussions would be held under the auspices of the WRC "with a view to assessing the individual elements comprising the totality of the union's claims". 

The spokesperson continued: "It is noted that these WRC discussions are taking place within the context of recent Dáil comments concerning the regularisation of pay, conditions of employment and pension provision of school secretaries and caretakers."

Labour Party education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said he congratulated Fórsa and the school secretaries for a successful campaign.

"It should not have taken several days of industrial action and campaigning over a few years for school secretaries and caretakers to get the pay and conditions that they deserve," he added.