Clock ticking on Catholic systemic EA

Putting the jigsaw together – members step up as we negotiate on two levels with 11 Catholic dioceses.

Members are rightfully questioning the time it’s taking the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) to reach an agreement regarding Catholic systemic schools.

The previous agreement expired on 31 December 2019 but remains in force. The missing elements are pay increases and improvements in conditions sought by members.

The jigsaw becomes apparent when we unpack the nature of the agreement. CCER negotiates on behalf of the 11 dioceses in relation to the overarching Enterprise Agreement. Referenced to the EA but developed at a local diocesan level are Work Practices Agreements (WPA).

These agreements capture more closely the fine detail associated with matters such as the number of meetings per term, class sizes, start and finish times, arrangements for term four in secondary schools and sliding scales of support for large class sizes in primary schools.

Some of these elements have been in play for decades. Critical among these are primary RFF provisions.

In meetings to progress the EA the following points have been agreed in principle:

  • expedited transition to the standards pay scale for pre 2014 teachers
  • recognition of prior teaching service in early childhood education for salary progression (not retrospective)
  • recognition of one year of unpaid parental leave for incremental progression (in line with the Department of Education)
  • five days paid emergency disaster leave per year, and
  • importantly, the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese has indicated it will extend RFF for primary teachers to 2.5 hours per week.

The time and complexities associated with the WPAs stem from the lack of a coordinated approach from the various dioceses.

Put simply, certain dioceses engage appropriately and others hasten slowly. Bathurst has now agreed to a schedule of meetings. Wilcannia-Forbes intends to forward policies that may be a framework for a WPA. The union calls upon all dioceses to progress matters.

Important elements are determined at the diocesan level, such as additional time release and the number of meetings held after school, calendars in advance and class sizes.

As Newsmonth goes to press, Chapter meetings across NSW and the ACT are being convened. The union will be requesting members not only to advise the union of their position but also the Catholic Schools Office in their diocese. This will assist in completing the jigsaw and ensuring back payment in early Term 2. Importantly, there is a support staff issue that needs addressing – ensuring long service leave equity and pay increases beyond the 2.5 per cent NSW Government cap.

Separately, members will also receive a back payment to their superannuation fund (some have already received this). A 2019 Australian Taxation Office revised ruling means super is payable on the 17.5 per cent annual leaving loading component of an annual salary. This back payment extends from 2009 until the present. Employers across all sectors have provided advice as to when payments should be made.

Mark Northam