At last approval of new support staff EAs in Catholic independent schools

The enterprise agreements (EAs) covering support and operational staff members in over 30 NSW Catholic independent schools have only just been approved by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), even though the voting on the enterprise agreements occurred in December last year.

Improved terms and conditions of employment now apply and continue to operate for the duration of each EA’s nominal term. Although the EAs were not legally enforceable until after approval by the FWC, the Union had insisted upon the inclusion of a back pay clause that requires employers to back pay increases to members upon approval.

Pay rises

Most schools had commenced paying the 2.5% pay increase from the agreed date of the first full pay period on or after 29 January 2017. However, if that has not occurred, members should now get the increase plus back pay to that date. In subsequent years pay rises of 2.5% will also apply. In the case of nurses and higher level maintenance and outdoor staff, the Union secured increases of 3% and 4% per annum respectively in an effort to move toward parity with staff in other independent and systemic schools.

New models and different terms

The EAs were written and voted upon as three multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs) and, in the case of Santa Sabina, as a single EA. The reason for doing this was to align support and operational staff agreement terms and voting procedures with those applying to teachers in each of the schools.

The Model A MEA applies to the seven schools that have the AIS standards pay structure for teachers, Model B applies to about 18 schools that have an incremental pay structure for teachers with higher pay rates and Model C applies to 10 schools where teachers have an incremental pay structure with lower pay rates. The length of the EA is the same as that of the teachers EA in that school - for instance, the Model A and Santa Sabina EAs operate for a period of four years, whereas the Models B and C agreements each have a three year term. This means the Union will be negotiating for new agreements for support and operational staff and teachers in each school at the same time.

Why was the approval of the agreements delayed?

The Fair Work Act has strict requirements that all agreements result in employees being better off under the agreement as compared to the relevant modern award. To this end, the Act requires the FWC to be satisfied that a Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) is satisfied in respect of each employee or prospective employee.

While it is the case that the agreements comfortably satisfy the BOOT in relation to the overwhelming majority of members, a number of issues were raised by the FWC regarding trainees and apprentices. There were also some concerns raised regarding the technical application of certain provisions regarding payment for additional hours worked, and the application of ordinary hours work provisions, penalty rates and allowances.

While most members would have been unaffected by the matters raised by the FWC, the Union encouraged employers to make the necessary undertakings to ensure the agreements met the BOOT. Each undertaking is beneficial in nature and is a legally enforceable term of the agreement. We will seek that these matters are properly addressed in future agreements.

Check your pay

If you have not already received a pay rise this year, or you do not receive one shortly with back pay, the Union urges you to raise the matter with your school. If the matter is not resolved, please contact your Union organiser for assistance.

Iain Bailey
Industrial Officer