Show of strength

Thousands of IEU members in the Catholic system took part in four hours stop work and gathered at rallies small and large all over NSW and the ACT on 4 and 6 December.

The action was a show of strength and resolve in the face of the employers bid to get a ‘yes’ vote for their enterprise agreement, using back pay as a stick to try and force the vote their way.

IEU Secretary John Quessy, addressing one of the rallies at Leichhardt, said everyone had made a “significant sacrifice” to be there and protest unjust treatment, threats and bullying.

“It’s necessary to preserve everything we’ve won,” John said.

A motion was passed that condemned the employer for distributing an enterprise agreement (EA) not endorsed by the Union.

The motion further rejected the absence of arbitration rights in the EA with the consequence that that it is practically unenforceable; rejected the removal of the ability to enforce Work Practice Agreements, that can now also be amended or cancelled at will by employers; and condemned the hypocrisy of Catholic employers who say they stand for social justice and the rights of workers but deny a pay rise to their own employees who want to retain their rights at work.

Here’s some of what was said at the rallies:

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We are also clever enough to understand that if the arbitration clause is not changed nothing in the EA has to be upheld. We also know we no longer have the ability to enforce Work Practice Agreements. We will be at the mercy of the employer. Does this mean an unregulated number of staff meetings? Loss of needed break times? Lack of support for new scheme teachers? Unmanageable class sizes? No self-autonomy on how RFF time is used and unachievable workload expectations increasing further? The list could go on.

Rhiarna Thomas
St Bernadette’s Primary School Castle Hill

At the end of 2017, the report card on our employer is dismal.

Under our report system – the employer receives a ‘Not Yet Demonstrated’ for playing fairly.

Its personal profile is as follows: a recalcitrant employer, who does not listen; a self serving and arrogant employer, who seeks to better themselves at the expense of its employees.

A bully, who intimidates and is in denial that they are the problem.

Tina Ruello
Catherine McAuley Westmead

Catholic guilt – you should feel guilty because they’re behaving badly? It’s outrageous and childish.

John Quessy
IEU Secretary

Every now and then members ask what we are fighting for… I tell them for the future. Unionism shouldn’t be something that is there just in case – it’s about the future of our profession. The conditions we fought for in the 80s still exist. The conditions we fight for now will leave a legacy for the next generation.

Glenn Lowe
St Joseph’s Catholic High School Albion Park

It is evident that they do not take – their employees, and the Union – seriously. We are a nuisance in their daily lives of telling us how best to do our job.

Bernadette Baker
St Mary’s Cathedral College Sydney

The question has to be asked, comrades, why are we even having this debate? Why, in 2017 Australia, should it be controversial to request that the right to arbitration be included in an industrial agreement?

Patrick Devery
Champagnat Catholic College

CCER has refused to negotiate with the Union on the issue of arbitration. Why? Because CCER realise that if the arbitration clause stays the same it tips the balance of power entirely to the employer and leaves employees unprotected, exposed and vulnerable.

Amanda Mason
St Michael’s Primary School Thirroul

We would ask the CCER and CSO to remember the Pope’s quotes about trade unions. [“Trade unions have been an essential force for social change, without which a semblance of a decent and humane society is impossible under capitalism.” Pope Francis]

Mark Adams
St John Paul College Coffs Harbour

Catholic employers have shown in the past they are prepared to play fast and loose with our industrial rights. We need only go back as recently as 2014, when they essentially attempted to throw out the whole agreement and start again, to see where their intentions lie. You need more time due to work intensification? How about we give you your PD during school holidays?

Patrick Devery
Champagnat Catholic College Pagewood