Soon all Catholic systemic school members will be asked to vote in a ballot on the enterprise agreement (EA). The IEU is recommending a ‘yes’ vote as the new EA protects existing conditions and provides salary increases ad benefits for all staff.
A detailed breakdown, with salary tables, of the new EA can be found on the IEU website www.ieu.asn.au under the red ‘Catholic EA News’ button on the left side of the homepage.
General employees and the proposed Catholic systemic enterprise agreement
The proposed enterprise agreement (EA) in Catholic systemic schools will, following approval, apply to both teaching and non teaching staff. The EA uses new terminology to describe employees in non-teaching roles as ‘general employees’.
The term general employee is a collective term that encompasses employees currently covered by different existing enterprise agreements (support staff and maintenance and outdoor staff), as well as some employees to whom the Modern Award currently applies.
General employees are classified into one of three occupational streams:
•Classroom and learning support services, currently referred to as school assistants
•School administrative services,currently referred to as clerical and administrative staff, and
•School operational services, currently maintenance and outdoor staff, and canteen and retail staff, but will also encompass those employees currently under the Modern Award.
A reference in the proposed EA to an ‘employee’ means all types of employee, that is, general employees and teachers (unless the section of the EA specifies that it only applies to a certain class of employee).
While many provisions of the proposed EA have application to all employees, some provisions will be relevant only to general employees or teachers, and this is why a new overarching term was required. There are also some provisions that apply only to employees engaged in one or more of the occupational streams outlined above.
Proposed wage increases for general employees
The first increase under the EA will apply from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2015. For most employees it will be 2.27%, applied to pre July rates, although employees to whom the Modern Award currently applies will receive a 2.5% increase on pre July rates. From 2016 general employees will receive their next wage increase at the same time as teachers in NSW, from the first full pay period on or after 1 January 2016, effectively bringing forward that next pay increase by a full six months.
Upon commencement of the EA, all general employees will translocate to new classifications. For most employees (other than those in the school operational services stream) this will involve no change to their rate of pay or, where applicable, their expected date of progression. For employees engaged in the school operational services stream, translocation will typically mean that an employee translocates to a substantially higher paid classification.
General employees will therefore have the benefit of receiving two increases within six months and, in some cases, a further increase by way of translocation. Most members will receive the 2015 increases of 2.27% at the ordinary time (from the first full pay period on or after 1 July) as well as the second increase of 2.5% in January 2016.
Classification structure for general employees
The proposed EA incorporates all three streams of general employees under a single pay and classification structure. Within each stream there are several applicable levels, containing one or more steps. Progression through such steps is based on 12 months of service.
Existing support staff members and Level 1 maintenance and outdoor staff will progress at the next expected date for automatic progression. Other general employees (those translocating to substantially higher salaries) will not progress until completion of 12 months on the translocated level (12 months after the commencement of the EA).
The classification structure for existing support staff is essentially the same as that which currently applies, except that the existing Level 1 will now have incremental step progression. Existing support staff levels 2, 3 and 4 will become Levels 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3. Existing Levels 5 and 6 will correspond to Levels 5 and 6 under the proposed EA.
The existing five step pay structure for maintenance and outdoor staff will be compressed into three steps meaning new employees will progress to the highest rate of pay sooner. Under the current arrangements, a trade-qualified employee commences at the second highest rate, but under the proposed EA an entirely new classification has been created with higher levels of remuneration for trade-qualified employees.
All existing Level 5 maintenance and outdoor staff will also translocate to the new level created for trade-qualified employees (irrespective of whether or not the existing employee holds a trade qualification). This translocation effectively delivers an increase to 2014 salaries of approximately $6,300 pa for fulltime employees, but the leading hand allowance has been absorbed into this rate of pay. In the case of a Level 4 trade-qualified maintenance and outdoor staff employee, they will also translocate to a level that provides an increase of $7,147 pa.
In other cases of translocating employees in the school operational services stream, increases are in the range of between $2,103 pa and $9,686 pa.
Level 1 maintenance and outdoor staff will receive an increase of $1,392 pa, but will progress to the next level at the currently expected date, which is equivalent to moving from the existing Level 1 to the existing Level 4 after a single year of service.
Support staff – Level 5 and 6 employees
The proposed EA will, for the first time, see an industrial instrument contain an obligation for employers to appoint Level 5 and 6 employees in all schools (with the exception of those schools in some regional dioceses of less than 100 students). These arrangements have previously existed by way of exchanges of correspondence, but will now be enforceable obligations under the terms of the proposed Agreement. The proposed EA also stipulates that Level 5 and 6 employees cannot be required to attain higher qualifications post-appointment. In other words, it is not open to assert or establish such a requirement unless it was agreed at, or before, the time of appointment.
The casual loading for most EA covered employees is currently 20%, but under the proposed EA this will increase to a loading of 25%.
The new evidence requirements for personal carer’s leave represent a significant improvement for general employees, now only requiring evidence after the first three days of absence in any year and later, in respect of absences for personal illness or injury, only for absences of two or more consecutive days. Other leave improvements for general employees include the introduction of paid community service leave and leave for examination and study purposes, as well as improvements to paid paternity leave. Many other leave conditions for Modern Award employees are increased (personal carer’s leave, long service leave and paid parental leave).
While the Union also sought to improve the arrangements for access to permanent hours for those support staff employees on recurring fixed term contracts, the existing provisions were retained and a commitment received from employers to continue negotiations on this matter throughout the life of the EA.
Key conditions protected
It’s important for members to reflect upon those things that employers wanted to take away when they presented their claim back in April 2014. That claim sought to reduce salaries for every classification of support staff employee by between $6,156 and $17,417 pa. While the employers proposed that this would only apply to new employees, the reality is that any such degradation would have had an immediate and dangerous impact on existing staff and their capacity to bargain for future increases. Members also identified that future reductions in hours would have likely targeted those on protected higher salaries. It also meant that future appointees to senior roles would have received no pay increase or, at best, only $833 pa more. The employer claim also sought to throw out the current system of automatic progression which would have adversely affected existing Level 2 and 3 employees, in addition to all future employees.
Similarly, employers wanted to remove existing entitlements by reducing overtime entitlements, reducing the minimum start provisions for part-time employees, making employees work an additional nine days at higher duties before receiving payment at the higher rate, and by introducing junior rates of pay for support staff.
At the last minute it was also surprisingly revealed that employers had wanted to take away the paid 10 minute tea break from those part-time employees working the typical minimum start of three hours. While the Union had simply assumed this aspect of the claim to be poorly expressed, it was clarified that employers had deliberately sought to limit it only to those employees working in excess of three hours.
The fact that all these entitlements have been protected is a credit to all support staff and maintenance and outdoor staff members who communicated their dissatisfaction and took action to stand up for, and successfully defend, their rights at work.