Catholic independent schools

- Not there yet

The union is currently in negotiations with the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) for new enterprise agreements (EAs) for teachers and support staff in about 30 Catholic independent schools. The current EAs expired at the end of 2019 so, like the Catholic systemic schools, a pay rise has been due since the beginning of 2020.

Employer proposal

The employers wrote to the union on 1 June to confirm their position and met with the union on 11 June.

They have offered a two-year EA with pay increases of 2.5% in 2020 and 2.28% in 2021 (reflecting the State Government increases for teachers). They have also offered some improvements in the teacher classification structure, which would assist teachers moving from interstate or overseas or who have experience as a NESA accredited early childhood teacher.

What they left out

CCER did not agree to many of the union’s claims. Schools have argued that they are under cost constraints at the moment because of fee waivers to parents. However, even items of low or minimal cost have been rejected.

The union strongly put to CCER at our meeting on 11 June that schools need to reconsider, at a minimum, our claims for: •guaranteed support for early career teachers and their mentors or supervisors

  • changes to teacher classifications to match provisions in government schools (that is, for limited recognition of unpaid parental leave and child rearing as teaching service)
  • emergency disaster leave of five days per annum
  • cultural and ceremonial leave
  • a disputes procedure clause in the EA permitting the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate a dispute when the dispute is unable to be resolved at school level or by mediation.

Simply saying ‘no’ to provisions already agreed to by other Catholic employers, or to provisions that make sense and come at no cost, is unacceptable.

We will again pursue other claims, such as additional pay rises and improved long service leave for support staff, in the next round of bargaining in 2021.

Arbitration of disputes

Up until 2017, the right of employees and the union to refer disputes to a tribunal for arbitration (or a binding resolution) had been assumed to apply to all of our enterprise agreements. The current Catholic Independent School Multi-Enterprise Agreements were made in early 2017 before CCER challenged the existence of the right to arbitration under another of our EAs.

At the end of 2017, following extensive industrial action by members in Catholic systemic schools, CCER agreed with the IEU to restore this fundamental workplace right for employees in Catholic systemic schools.

Similar dispute provisions explicitly providing for arbitration by the Fair Work Commission were agreed for Catholic independent schools in the ACT in 2018. Catholic independent schools, including Edmund Rice and Marist Brothers schools in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania also have similar provisions in their agreements.

CCER representatives have stated that only some NSW Catholic independent schools oppose this right but CCER is opposing it on behalf of all Catholic independent schools.

Next steps

Voting on the EAs has been foreshadowed for early in Term 3. CCER will provide draft EAs to the union for comment in the week commencing 22 June. Another meeting is proposed for the week commencing 29 June.

The union has urged CCER to resolve the arbitration issue and engage more constructively with the union’s claims. Simply saying “no” to provisions already agreed to by other Catholic employers, or to provisions that make sense and come at no cost, is unacceptable.

Members in the 30 schools are currently meeting and voting on the chapter motion that has been circulated. We encourage the IEU chapter committee in each school to meet and discuss these issues with the school principal.

Carol Mattews
Deputy Secretary