Maitland-Newcastle CSO dispute

The IEU will shortly be meeting with members employed in the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese to discuss the next steps in the campaign for an up to date enterprise agreement for staff employed in the Catholic Schools Office (CSO) and Shared Services.

FWC decision

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) handed down a decision on 9 January 2019 concerning the long running dispute with the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese about the terms and conditions of 35 staff who were transferred in 2018 from the CSO to Shared Services, another administrative section of the Diocese.

The case was brought by the Union on behalf of members affected by the reduction in their working conditions as a result of the transfer. The CSO had advised employees that the existing Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office Enterprise Agreement 2017 (CSO EA) no longer applied to the transferring staff. As a result, staff lost conditions such as long service leave, personal/carer’s leave and redundancy pay and were entitled to reduced paid parental leave.

Unfortunately, the Commission held in the January decision that the CSO EA did not continue to apply to staff who transferred to Shared Services. The Commission also declined to vary the CSO EA to ensure the EA continued to apply.

This decision was based on technical legal argument, not the fairness or otherwise of whether or not the EA should continue to apply. Indeed, Commissioner Johns referred to the “inherent unfairness” of the fact that the EA would no longer apply to employees who had voted for it. The Commissioner also referred to the “oddity” of the fact that the EA would not apply because there was an administrative restructure but would have continued to apply had the employees been outsourced to a separate company. This was the case even though the staff in Shared Services continued to perform work for the CSO in support of schools.

The Commission stated that the undertaking by the Bishop in August 2017 that CSO employees would not be disadvantaged by the transfer to Shared Services could not be used in interpreting the CSO EA if this was not the effect of the EA itself.

Other CSO staff

The enterprise agreement (EA) applying to CSO staff who have not been transferred is now up for renegotiation. CSO staff have not received the 2.5% increase paid to staff in schools in January 2019. The Union will be in contact with members to discuss claims for the new EA and we expect, given the treatment of staff who transferred to Shared Services, that these negotiations may be protracted. We will also be consulting with members in Shared Services as to future enterprise agreement coverage.

Carol Matthews Assistant Secretary
Assistant Secretary