An experienced advocate: Meet Katherine D’Souza

Remind younger staff that the benefits they often take for granted have been gained and embedded in the system through past industrial action.

Katherine D’Souza is secretary of her IEU chapter at Nazareth Catholic Primary School on the NSW South Coast. She has been a union member ever since she graduated and entered the workforce in 1982, joining what was then known as the Independent Teachers Association, the precursor to what is now the IEU.

“Joining the union seemed like a natural thing to do when I graduated,” said Katherine.

“I never doubted that this was an integral part of my career as a teacher.”

Katherine took over as chapter rep in the school she was working in at the time in 1987 and says that experience has helped her develop a greater knowledge of the issues that members in non government schools face, and how to address those issues.

Build strong chapters

Encouraging member participation in her chapter is important to Katherine, who soon encouraged other engaged members to form a committee.

“We now have three teachers and two support staff members on our committee, which helps getting out information, usually in the form of discussion in the staffroom as well as a more formal meeting each term.”

When encouraging colleagues who may not yet be members to join the union, Katherine says she relies on her experience of past struggles and union victories.

“I feel you just need to keep the conversation open and, as someone who has been around for quite a while, remind younger staff that the benefits they often take for granted have been gained and embedded in the system through past industrial action.”

Overcome obstacles

Katherine is nevertheless realistic of the challenges for organising and campaigning in the workplace. One of the big obstacles to overcome, she says, is the trepidation of workers who feel insecure in their ongoing employment.

“The high number of temporary staff who are competing for permanency have a perceived mindset that if they campaign it may be detrimental to them gaining full time permanent positions.”

Katherine recommends reps talk to their organisers about attending chapter meetings, so that members can get the benefit of their “great wealth of knowledge.” She also says it’s a good idea to have co-reps, especially support staff, on your team. And if you are ever unsure, to call the union to find out up to date information to questions you may not know the answers to.

Proud to be union

“As a longstanding member of the IEU, and having been through past industrial actions that were part of campaigns, I have witnessed first hand how the union works tirelessly to make gains in conditions and wages for all of their members.

“I am proud to be a member of such an organisation!” said Katherine.