In light of the upcoming negotiations for the Catholic systemic enterprise agreement due to expire at the end of the year, the Union sent a survey to support staff working in the 11 Catholic dioceses across NSW/ACT to gauge the issues facing them at work.
Much of what the Union already knew from our chapter meetings, calls, emails, and industrial cases has been confirmed by the feedback to the survey, which particularly sought to determine the duration and frequency of unpaid overtime undertaken by support staff.
A key finding is that a staggering 92% of respondents indicated that they start work before their scheduled time, and 90% stay back. Additionally, 37% never claim overtime and 47% have been directed to take time in lieu instead of an overtime payment.
The breadth of experiences of our support staff members in schools also generated a wide range of issues in the workplace, including:
- lack of awareness of particular entitlements, such as the overnight allowance
- favouritism or nepotism in the selection of candidates
- inequity in allocations of work
- lack of transparency in appointments
- completion of PD in non work hours
- long term rolling temporary appointments
- highly skilled tasks being under classified, and
- Work, health and safety concerns with regards to fatigue and mental health.
The Union also hosted a cluster meeting for Parramatta Diocese support staff at Blacktown Workers Club on 13 August. Given support staff often miss chapter meetings in schools, the Union wanted to engage with support staff and add their feedback to the log of claims.
The meeting was attended by support staff holding a variety of levels and roles, from teachers’ aides, to library assistants, administrative staff and lab technicians, and provided important insight into their concerns.
One issue that is causing deep concern is the constant stress of insecure work, keenly felt by teachers’ aides.
Also of concern was the time some schools are taking to communicate role allocations and availabilities year by year, with decisions communicated in late December, and only via email.
Another frustration was that support staff are often not aware of their entitlements as waged workers, which is not being communicated by school leadership teams.
The Union is aware that some support staff have not been informed of the overtime provision or that there is an overnight camp allowance in the enterprise agreement.
The Union is seeking to remedy these issues with the current log of claims which looks at tightening the pathway to permanency, LSL accrual equity and meaningful Professional Development.
The Union is also implementing additional ways to engage support staff beyond our Gaining Ground and Newsmonth publications, our biannual conference (which takes place on 13 September this year) and our social media channels.
We encourage all support staff to complete the survey and invite their colleagues to join the Union in order to stay up to date with our claim, and, importantly, to access their rights and entitlements at work.