What are they afraid of?

I have been an employee of the Catholic sector for my whole teaching career. Thirty plus years serving the mission of the Catholic Church in my role as a primary teacher, and all that entails.

Mostly it has been fulfilling and satisfying. Sometimes it has been extraordinarily hard and soul destroying. As an employee of the Catholic system, you have a similar philosophy of teaching and working for the Catholic Church in a teaching /support role.

We know that education is a complex and messy business – children, their parents, societal and cultural forces. It would not work without us, the teachers who work with all those stresses.

We are the ones on the ground, at the chalk face. We are the ‘face of the Church’ on a daily basis – in partnership with the Church, but when it comes to our working conditions and rights and professional judgment, suddenly we are persona non grata.

We have nothing to contribute to our employment conditions and work life. We are encouraged and expected to be vocal and contribute to social justice, but not in the arena of our own employment conditions.

We are expected to be compliant, not to speak out about the injustices that occur in workplaces – classes of 34. How is that fair on any teacher and their students? I am very sorry to report it affects many, many teachers in the Sydney Archdiocese.

Why is it wrong for us, this collective, to speak out and say it should not be happening? And in the communications to parents, did you notice that there was no explanation of the issues at the heart of our dispute and their side of the argument?

If historically we could trust our employer, we wouldn’t need a workplace agreement; all would be rosy, fair, just and trusting. But unfortunately, we live in the real world and we know their track record.

The pay rise is not the real sticking point in this dispute, we have gone without all year. We have stuck to our principles of social and workplace justice.

We believe in a reasonable expectation of dispute resolution (like our colleagues in Victoria and Queensland), classes that are not over crowded, RFF, and mysteriously are prepared to discuss them in a reasonable professional matter with our employer. It is evident that there is a discord of philosophy and practice on their side.

It begs the question ‘What are they afraid of’?

Regarding being in the courts for rogue employees (non members)? They already spend enormous amounts of money on legal representation in cases that they do not have a good track record of winning.

Afraid that a teacher may do a better job with less than 34 students?

That RFF may be abused and a coffee will take precedence over classroom tasks?

The message we want to send to our employers is, ‘yes we are dedicated, yes we care about our profession, yes we care about our colleagues’.

We care enough to protest at the pettiness and failure to genuinely negotiate. We care enough to be dedicated to ensure that your employees are well serviced and supported in their industrial agreement. We care enough to ask ‘What are you afraid of’?

Bernadette Baker
Vice President Catholic Systemic Schools