The Minister for Education has appealed to school secretaries to defer a one-day strike planned for tomorrow.
Around 1,000 school secretaries, most of whom work in primary schools, are due to strike tomorrow as part of their campaign to secure better pay and working conditions.
In a statement, Joe McHugh said he understood the issues that school secretaries had raised and he placed a huge value and importance on their work and role in the running of schools.
The minister said he was disappointed that the trade union Fórsa was pushing ahead with industrial action which would impact on the day-to-day operation of schools, including, potentially, the pay of teachers and SNA's.
The school secretaries will also resume a work-to-rule which means that they will not input information into State databases or engage in any duties they regard as public service work.
This includes the inputting of teacher and other staff payroll data.
However, the Department of Education says schools are supposed to have other members of staff trained to input such information.
The secretaries want an end to what they say is a two-tier system that leaves most school secretaries - those employed directly by schools not the Department of Education - earning just euro;12,000 a year with irregular short-term contracts that oblige them to sign on for social welfare during the summer holidays and other school breaks, and leave them without pension and other work entitlements.
Their union has been engaged in talks at the WRC with the Department of Education in an attempt to resolve the conflict. In his statement this evening Mr McHugh acknowledged that while the trade union had not withdrawn from the talks there was still "some distance" between the parties.
He said his department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform were reflecting on the latest discussions.
Mr McHugh said he was appealing to Fórsa to reconsider their decision, to defer their action and to re-engage with the two departments, who were fully open to further dialogue, at the WRC.
He said that this was the only way that the situation would be resolved.
The minister said that his officials would continue to assess the situation, in conjunction with school management bodies.