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Canney, Seán

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Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

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Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

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Snippet Contents:

I am sharing time with Deputy Fitzpatrick.
I welcome the Bill, which is part of the programme for Government, and I compliment the Minister on bringing it to the House. It is important to set out exactly what the Bill intends to do. It seeks to improve the security and predictability of people in employment. Many people do not know what they are going to earn or how many hours they will work from week to week or even from day to day.
In certain cases, it proposes to ban zero-hour contracts. We need to watch out for this because some exploitation can go on with employers. However, in some places employers need to have flexibility in work hours. In the main, the Bill gets that balance right. We often talk about big companies and how they might take advantage of their employees because of big numbers or whatever, and that they can dictate terms and conditions outside good practice or what is morally right. The Bill is very important from that point of view.
I take the opportunity to raise another matter in the area of employment. I have had much correspondence from school secretaries and caretakers who are not all treated equally. A small number of school secretaries have been employed under the 1978-79 scheme. They are paid on the equivalent of grade 3 or grade 4 civil servants depending on the school size. More than 3,000 school secretaries are employed by boards of management funded by the Department of Education and Skills. However, the rates of pay vary from school to school depending on the board of management and on affordability.
In addition, school secretaries are not paid for the 52 weeks and they have to sign on the dole for the summer, which is very degrading for them. The role of the school secretary needs to be valued; they are often the engine that keeps the school going. They deal with all the day-to-day problems that arise and keep the school running smoothly. They are also the problem solvers, but they seem to be treated differently. It is vital that their pay and conditions are corrected and that there is parity between schools so that they get equal pay for equal work and get the same terms and conditions nationally. This anomaly needs to be addressed. While the Bill deals with employment, we need to talk about the broader problems and anomalies involved.
For school secretaries and caretakers, there is a substantial difference between the rate paid in one school and the rate paid in another school for the same work carried out. The school secretaries have been very patient. There is an onus on us, as legislators, to ensure these issues are addressed and that we get parity for everybody. An arbitration case in 2015 found that there should be increases in pay and a minimum hourly rate for school secretaries. I welcome that the Department has given extra funding to schools, but there is still a significant disparity in the rates of pay between schools. We need to take these anomalies out of the system. There are many more anomalies with young educators working in crèches where they get paid for the hours worked and do not necessarily get paid the same rates as schoolteachers. They have been through four years of college and have a level 8 qualification, but yet are treated differently.
We have a very significant amount of work to do and it is vital that we bring in the Bill as quickly as possible. It is part of the programme for Government. I wanted to put on record my remarks on school secretaries but I welcome the Bill and offer my support to the Minister on it.