The IEU May Newsextra asked members in Catholic systemic schools to vote on a motion calling on employers to provide pay increases to “match pay increases for teachers in the government sector to ensure pay parity”. This claim very much reminds me of the many campaigns I supported during the 32 years I taught in a Catholic school.
In 1968, I joined the staff at a Catholic independent school on the western outskirts of metropolitan Sydney after spending my first two years of teaching in a government school.
Not long after I began, a colleague asked how much I was being paid. I explained I was receiving the same rate I was paid at my previous government school. I think it was about $66 a week at the time. His response was “they sucked me in for $44 a week”. This was my introduction to the ‘grace and favour’ system of setting pay rates in non government schools.
I subsequently joined the Assistant Masters’ and Mistresses’ Association, the ‘union’ for teachers in non government schools. It did not take long for me to realise that this union would not have the effectiveness of my previous memberships in the Teachers Federation and an Engineering Union during my apprenticeship.
The AMMA appeared to be little more than a cosy club having been set up by the ‘common rooms’ of the GPS schools in response to government union legislation passed in the early 1950s. The only activity I was aware of was the annual general meeting in Sydney at the end of the year to elect officers for the following year.
Fortunately, I soon became aware of another school teacher in a Catholic school, John Nicholson, who was seeking the post of Secretary of the AMMA. John’s aim was to reshape the AMMA into an active professional union to provide benefits for all non government school teachers. Consequently, my first campaign for the modern IEU was to attend meetings convened by John at the local Leagues Club and travel around to the non government schools in the district urging teachers to attend the AGM and support John’s bid to be elected Secretary.