Sub Branch meetings are an opportunity for Chapter Reps from individual schools throughout each region to come together, hear updates from union organisers and provide feedback about what’s happening in their workplaces. The IEU has 19 geographical sub branches across NSW and the ACT, plus our Principals’ Sub Branch. Sub Branches meet four times a year, usually in the first three or four weeks of each term. All Chapter Reps and any members who’d like to become more active in their union are warmly invited to attend their Sub Branch meeting. Contact your rep or your organiser if you’d like more information.
Sub branch reports
Northern Suburbs Sub Branch
A small but engaged meeting of Northern Suburbs Reps met online on 26 July to discuss the range of general business items common to all sub branch meetings, as well as sharing concerns relevant to the sub branch and individual schools.
AIS Reps were eager to hear of developments in the current negotiations with AIS as they draw to a conclusion. The refusal of the employer to accept the support staff element of the union’s claim was noted with disappointment, especially as many support staff continue to go above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic.
Catholic systemic school Reps look forward to working with their chapters in the coming months to develop a log of claims for the next round of negotiations due to commence in the back half of this year.
It was noted that workload issues andthe perennial concern of increasing class sizes without appropriate consultation continue to present issues in some Catholic systemic schools.
How to conduct HSC trials and the upcoming practical HSC marking process was high on the agenda for all secondary school Reps. It was noted that principals already have the authority to make appropriate alterations changes the assessment program for HSC courses and that there is no obligation to hold HSC trial exams as they are really only just another assessment task.
Reps were very interested to see the recruitment and retention data regarding new member joins. Of particular note was the fact that, overwhelmingly, the reason new members gave for motivating them to join the union was simply because someone had spoken to them and asked them if they would like to become a member. This is both encouraging for the good work already being carried out by Reps and a good reminder to all chapter members that they have an important role to play in promoting union membership.
A small number of Northern Suburbs Reps had joined the online ‘Rep Huddle’ the previous week which was a union support network initiative designed to give Reps the opportunity to share concerns and suggestions as to how best we might negotiate these challenging times. The trial meeting was well received, and it is envisaged these Rep Huddles will recommence once the sub branch round of meetings has concluded.
Northern Suburbs Sub Branch President
North West Sub Branch
Fourteen Reps attended the NorthWest Sub Branch meeting on 30 July via Zoom including three new Reps who were made welcome by stand-in Chair Denise McHugh.
New England Girls School is the only school in the North West that has not awarded a pay increase to its staff this year. In November 2020, the NEGS Chapter called on its employer for an interim pay rise while negotiations with the AIS for a new MEA continue. Despite numerous communications from the union, there was no response from the school. Meanwhile other independent schools in the area (eg Carinya Christian School, Calrossy, The Armidale School, PLC and Minimbah) all decided to recognise the sterling work of their staff through the pandemic. The sub branch heard that the staff subsequently organised a petition and the school finally advised its staff that an interim pay rise would not be forthcoming this year.
There was also discussion from Catholic systemic school Reps about the issue of taking small blocks of sick leave. It seemed that past practice allowed for members to take a half hour or a last period off for an appointment which usually are difficult to schedule outside of school hours. While there is no industrial entitlement to do this, there appeared to be a recognition that staff went over and beyond the usual expectations and put in many hours outside of usual school times and, as a result, staff did not have to put in leave applications for such one-off short absences. Members are unclear as to why this has changed. Furthermore, members are confused about how much leave they need to take for short blocks of absence, for example, what is a half day leave? What does one hour of leave represent in terms of a day? Reps will speak with the principals and if further clarification is required, the IEU will contact the Armidale CSO.
The difficulty in employing casuals remains an issue of much concern among most of the schools in the North West along with issues of work intensification.
The IEU Women and Equity Committee is planning a Zoom forum entitled ‘A Focus on Social Justice and Equity’ for 5pm on Friday 3 September. The guest speaker will be Armidale Deputy Mayor Debra O’Brien. We'll put details on our website (ieu.asn.au).
Our final Sub Branch meeting for 2021 is scheduled for a 5.30pm start on Friday 12 November at the Tamworth Hotel. Hopefully this can go ahead in person, if not we'll be on Zoom.
David Towson Organiser
Lansdowne Sub Branch
The Lansdowne Sub Branch covers much of the south-western Sydney local government areas that are in strict lockdown during the outbreak of the Delta strain of COVID-19 that began in June.
Members in this area are keenly feeling the stress and pressure: in our meeting with the Patrician Brothers College Fairfield Chapter, 62 members attended online, along with the NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam and Assistant Secretary Pam Smith.
Questions raised by members mirrored the wide-ranging topics emerging from the broader Lansdowne Sub Branch. Most notably, and rightly so, was the NSW Government’s premature and ill-thought-out decision to return Year 12s to school for the Trial examinations.
Concerns about the practicalities of such a decision and the knock-on effect on primary schools from deploying supervising teachers dominated discussions. There were also strong concerns around online learning fatigue and the outright debacle of vaccine access.
It was not surprising therefore that the Sub Branch agenda was dominated not by the union’s main body of work – wages and industrial enterprise negotiations – but the discussions around health and safety of school staff and employers’ obligations to uphold them.
It was heartening to hear how some school leaders stepped up and prioritised their staff while others made some unreasonable demands, forgetting that better learning outcomes are not achieved through excessive Zoom sessions but through quality engagement with students, pacing of tasks, and school staff working safely to avoid burnout.
As ever, the commitment of teachers and support staff shone through what was clearly a difficult and, at times, emotional meeting. Reps passionately explained how members and colleagues are managing without an end in sight to these difficult circumstances, and for whom working from home is not as easy as many – usually non-practitioners – would like us to believe.
The Delta strain is made worse by the strain felt by our members. But at least the idea of returning Year 12s to school for their Trial Examinations has been abandoned.
Lubna Haddad Organiser
North Coast and Mid-North Coast Sub Branch
The Association of Independent Schools (AID) Hybrid model Multi-Enterprise Agreement (MEA), which covers the majority of independent schools in our region, expired in January 2021.
The AIS has left individual schools to offer their own pay increases to staff in independent schools. Employers in these schools remain resolute in not offering 2021 pay increases above 2% even though independent school chapters have lobbied school principals and moved motions seeking improved pay increases in line with public sector, Catholic systemic and Christian schools. Members are disappointed with the poor responses they are receiving from principals in relation to this matter given the increased workload they have had to deal with due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early childhood centres in the region are seeking IEU assistance in developing and renewing enterprise agreements. Lismore IEU Industrial officer Carolyn Moore has been busy drafting and assisting early childhood members with the enterprise agreement process.
Lismore IEU Organisers continue to meet regularly with Lismore Catholic School Office HR representatives to discuss issues affecting members in Catholic schools across the diocese.
Recently, permanent support staff teacher aides across several schools within the diocese have been affected through restructures with redundancies taking place. These redundancies have occurred due to loss of NCCD funding and new models of student support being adopted by schools.
At our Term 3 sub branch meeting, a motion was ratified to address an edict in the diocese’s new Promotions Position Procedures Policy which states that only full-time teachers on 1.0 FTE can apply for promotion positions. It was the sub branch's view that this clause indirectly discriminated against women accessing flexible work arrangements and part-time teachers unable to gain full-time employment. Further, the sub branch called on the diocese to ensure interview panels provided gender balance.
Lismore CSO HR staff advised the IEU that a new payroll system, Compass, was to be implemented in September and that consultation and due notice would be provided to all employees. We have recently been advised that this new payroll system has been delayed and will not commence until later this year.
Steve Bergan, Carolyn Moore, Richard Ryan Organisers
Penrith and Blue Mountains Sub Branch
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which this report is written, the Darug and Gundungurra Peoples, and pay my respect to their elders.
The sub branch meeting held via zoom on 28 July was well attended, welcoming 18 chapter representatives and officers. Zoom meetings remove the tyranny of distance, helping more reps and organisers to attend.
Schools represented at the meeting were:
- Penola Catholic College, Emu Plains
- St Joseph’s Primary, Schofields
- CathWest Innovation College, McCarthy Campus, Emu Plains
- St Monica’s, Richmond
- Wollemi College, Werrington
- St Finbar’s Primary, Glenbrook
- Good Shepherd Primary, Plumpton
- Norwest Christian College, Riverstone
- Xavier College, Llandilo
- St Mary MacKillop, South Penrith
- Trinity Catholic School, Kemps Creek
- Mamre Anglican, Kemps Creek
Chapter reps shared issues arising from delivering education online from dispersed locations in a pandemic.
Consistent with all sub branch meetings, we heard updates on the upcoming Catholic Systemic Enterprise Agreement, Catholic Independent Schools, the AIS Multi-Enterprise Agreement, NESA and Covid-19, the postponement of the IEU’s 2021 Support Staff and Early Childhood Conferences and the ECS Council elections.
The Western Sydney Women’s Forum on 4 November is going ahead at this stage, and sub branch President Liz Heggart is hosting at Penola Catholic College Emu Plains.
The meeting acknowledged Janet Marie’s recent loss and Regina Bryan’s retirement. Officers also acknowledged and saluted the reps present and all chapter members – all are frontline workers who are working long hours in difficult circumstances. We are in awe of your ability and commitment in adapting to educating remotely and keeping your schools running.
Thank you to Liz Heggart for chairing the meeting and Secretary Margaret O’Donnell for her minutes.
Ann-Maree McEwan Organiser
Riverina Sub Branch
The Riverina Sub Branch includes schools in Albury, Wagga Wagga, Leeton, Griffith and even as far as Moama.
The Riverina Sub Branch met in Griffith on 23 July after a successful Reps training day.
Attendance was down due to the ‘Albury Bubble’ which prevented our dedicated school reps from participating.
Anthony Telford, the new IEU organiser for the Riverina was warmly welcomed by members.
Issues raised by the school reps included:
- the introduction of the new finance system has impacted adversely on teachers and support staff
- the restructuring of promotion positions in schools following a review by the Catholic Education Diocese of Wagga Wagga
- the COVID Tutor System salaries and role descriptions.
- remote learning and expectations for those staff working from home and onsite, and
- Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) and the increased workload for learning support assistants.
Jackie Groom Organiser