Members become proactive and more involved

Dana Patterson has been teaching in Catholic education for almost 35 years and has been a member of the IEU “since day dot”. Dana was made union rep at La Salle Catholic College in Bankstown, last year after working at the school for the last 14 years.

Dana’s chapter has around 58 IEU members now, all of whom she reports as wanting to be very proactive and involved, helping them become a close-knit chapter that communicates well. These characteristics became even more important when the coronavirus pandemic arrived.

“I think I’ve been pretty proactive and very much present for my members at my school,” Dana said.

“I think that’s been shown in the way that people feel very comfortable being part of the union and participating in chapter meetings, and also feeling able to approach me on their own individual basis.”

Navigating uncertainties of pandemic

Trust and communication were vital for this chapter as they navigated the uncertainties and anxieties presented by the pandemic. At the height of the uncertainties, Dana organised an online video conference chapter meeting to be held over Zoom. This meeting was attended all 58 union members – a fantastic achievement in its own right – as well as the chapter’s IEU organiser.

“That meeting was very much content driven,” said Dana.

“It was all about communication and people just wanting their questions and concerns answered.”

To that end, in the week prior to the meeting, Dana had sent around a Google Doc to all of the chapter members, who were encouraged to write down any questions, comments or concerns they may have been experiencing. It was this document that then provided the basis and structure for the chapter meeting.

“It was an opportunity for members to remain anonymous if they wished, but still have the chance to write down questions that they knew would be presented at the chapter meeting and which would be answered for them.

“So with James (IEU Organiser) we looked at a lot of health and safety issues, we looked at teachers at risk and families at risk, pregnant wives and elderly parents living with them. It was a really broad spectrum, but still really quite detailed and open to covering a great range of issues.

We have been really upfront and proactive in doing that, and I think that has made the staff feel that they are being really well supported.

Members get questions answered

“I think union members could walk away feeling like I’ve had a lot of questions answered, a lot of things now make sense as far as what the union has to say on the matter as compared to what Sydney Catholic Schools have to say, and see if there is any conflict with what the union is saying… it really cleared up a lot of things and put a lot of people’s minds at rest.”

After the meeting, Dana brought any remaining unresolved issues to the attention of the principal, who she says she has developed a very good working relationship with.

“He was really responsive to the claims and issues raised in the meeting. He’s been pretty incredible during this period

“He’s been really respectful of me, knowing that I’m working closely with the union members and together we’re just trying to keep a nice calm environment, while keeping everyone very well informed.”

Dana said that, despite the anxieties and disruptions that have come about during this intense period of time and transitioning to online remote learning, is that members in her chapter have been given plenty of opportunities to express their concerns and raise questions and receive adequate responses.

“We have been really upfront and proactive in doing that, and I think that has made the staff feel that they are being really well supported.

“Obviously that’s through me initially, as the union rep, but also we sort things out with Mick (the principal) and I working together, and keeping those lines of communication really open.”

Angus Hoy