School secretaries and caretakers are "frustrated and disappointed" at the Government's failure to table concrete proposals to address low pay, job insecurity and inadequate pensions in their grades, according to their union Fórsa.
At present, school secretaries and caretakers employed by individual schools are not deemed to be public servants, so do not enjoy access to the public service pension scheme or pay scales, and are often forced to sign on the dole over the summer.
Prior to the pandemic, they had already taken strike action in pursuit of their claim.
Fórsa National Secretary Andy Pike told RTÉ News that today at the Workplace Relations Commission, officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Education sought a further adjournment until 13 May to submit proposals.
He insisted it had been expected that they would be tabled today.
He cited comments by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar in the Dáil last October praising the role of the secretaries and caretakers, and pledging that their situation would be regularised.
Mr Pike said this statement had been key to the union's decision to enter into a new talks process.
"We are concerned that the political commitments given to the school secretaries by the Tánaiste need to be reflected in what Department officials are telling both us and the WRC," he told RTÉ News.
"We would also be concerned if there were an attempt to undermine the assurances given by refusing to give school secretaries and caretakers access to the same pension terms as workers they work alongside in every school."
Mr Pike said that while there had been a lot of discussion over the last six to eight weeks on various topics, the management side had never confirmed a final position - and were being very slow to commit to anything.
He said that regarding access for the secretaries to the 2013 public service pensions scheme, the officials had said they were going to conduct yet another "data gathering exercise".
However, Mr Pike noted that management had been able to put forward costings over the two years since the current campaign got under way in early 2019.
He suggested there was resistance from DPER on the basis that it was unclear how much any agreement might cost.
Mr Pike concluded that Fórsa would stick with the process, but said members were "really, really frustrated".
In a statement the Department of Education said talks took place today in the WRC "as part of ongoing discussions related to the pay and conditions of secretaries and caretakers and progress is being made on the pathway set out by the WRC".
"A further date has been agreed for Mid-May between the parties at the WRC and bilateral discussions will continue in the interim between the Department of Education and Forsa on the complex matters that form part of the claim."