Unsettled times

in Maitland-Newcastle Diocese

The Union was surprised to hear of the abrupt resignation of Michael Slattery, the Director of the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office in mid October. The Union understands that Dr Slattery was prepared to work until the end of the year but “it was determined” he should go immediately. CSO staff report dismay that he was treated unceremoniously.

Dr Slattery’s departure takes place in the context of a number of points of friction between the Union and Sean Scanlon, who has been appointed by the Bishop as Chief Executive of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.

Restructure of the diocesan office

A major restructure of the diocese’s office has been underway since 2017. In mid 2018, key functions of payroll, IT and human resources were centralised across all diocesan agencies into a new administrative unit called Shared Services. Approximately 33 staff have been transferred from the relevant sections of the Catholic Schools Office into Shared Services.

As a result of this change, the diocese is seeking to impose drastic reductions in conditions of employment for the transferring staff – for example a reduction in long service leave, a reduction in personal/carer’s leave, a change to paid parental leave and an increase in hours of work. Redundancy entitlements would be slashed. Most conditions revert to the modern award and legal minimums. For some staff a pay increase is proposed but for others there is no compensation at all for the loss of conditions.

The Union has strongly resisted these changes on behalf of members. We have notified a dispute to the Fair Work Commission and we say that the 2017 Enterprise Agreement, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office Staff Enterprise Agreement 2017 should continue to apply to CSO staff after they have been transferred into the new administrative unit. After all, the vast majority of the work performed in Shared Services relates to schools, so why should the diocese be able to get out of enterprise agreement conditions just by creating a new administrative unit?

The case was listed for hearing before the Fair Work Commission in Newcastle for two days in early September with final submissions scheduled for early November.

The Union has continued to hold discussions with the diocese in an attempt to resolve the dispute but we have been unable to do so.

Pre-employment screening

The Union was surprised to be contacted late in Term 3 by members in schools who had been informed by colleagues that the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese (not the CSO) was requiring applicants for employment to fill in a very intrusive 10 page health questionnaire. The Union had not been consulted about the questionnaire. The questionnaire required applicants to list all prescription and non prescription medication being taken, their full medical history, psychological health, alcohol consumption, smoking history etc. In many instances, the information required was not relevant to the applicant’s ability to perform the job.

The Union raised the matter with the diocese and met with representatives in mid October. IEU understands from the meeting that the diocese will advise applicants the form was ‘an error’. The Union has suggested that if the diocese wishes to continue to use any form of pre-employment health screening, any questionnaire should be much shorter (say one page) and limited to the essential requirements of the position (which should also be spelled out to applicants).

Pay issues

Due to the staff turnover in head office caused by the administrative restructure, the Union has concerns that pay and other issues affecting staff in schools may not be resolved as efficiently as in the past. Contact the Union if your problem requires follow-up.

Carol Matthews
Assistant Secretary