Slow progress in Catholic systemic negotiations

The IEU wrote to Catholic Employment Relations (CER), the body representing the 11 Catholic dioceses in bargaining for a new enterprise agreement for teachers and support staff in Catholic systemic schools on 29 July 2022, to complain about the lack of progress. Employer representatives have refused repeated requests to meet – the last meeting was on 15 June 2022. We also wrote directly to the diocesan directors about the delay on 4 August.

Support staff

There is still no detailed offer by dioceses to increase support staff pay rates to match the rates applying in government schools. CER, while agreeing in May that employers would provide parity of rates in two instalments with those applying in government schools, stated at the same time: “Please note thatthe IEU proposal regarding rates of pay isstill under consideration and a responsewill be provided shortly.” No such response has been provided. This means the IEU still does not know exactly what the dioceses have “agreed’’.

The union has sought improved permanency for learning support staff and support staff generally. Although CER agreed in May to further discuss these claims, there is still no proposal from the employers.

Some dioceses have moved proactively to address this problem at a local level whereas others have not. The IEU welcomes the move by Catholic Schools Broken Bay to investigate models to increase permanency for learning support staff by employing them across a cluster of schools.

Improved long service leave is also an outstanding issue.

Teacher workload

The union has met directly with dioceses to discuss measures each diocese can adopt to address teacher workload. At this stage there has been generally little concrete improvement. Notwithstanding that most dioceses have the resources to provide additional release in primary schools, and most already do so on an ad hoc basis, there has been no general commitment to additional release time.

Broken Bay is introducing an additional hour of release time across primary and secondary schools in the form of Collaborative Planning Time, which seems to have been met favourably by teachers in the trial schools. Where additional release time is offered, either on a weekly basis or in the form of additional pupil-free days, it is essential that it does not increase teacher workload by mandating additional duties be performed way beyond the release provided. Preparatory reading or follow up homework simply exacerbates the existing workload pressures. The additional release sought by the union is teacher-directed not employer-directed.

Pay increases

The current NSW public sector pay offer is a 3% increase July 2022, 3% increase July 2023 and a 2.5% increase July 2024. This is inclusive of the legislated increases in superannuation of 0.5% in each of July 2022, July 2023 and July 2024. An additional 0.5% pay rise is available in 2023 “where a substantial employee contribution has been made to productivity enhancing reforms agreed to by the employer”; that is, this is not guaranteed and is based on productivity.

These pay increases have been rejected by NSW public sector unions. There has been no pay offer by the ACT Government for ACT government teachers.

Other state governments have been prepared to offer their teachers and other public servants higher increases.

For example, the Queensland Government has offered teachers salary increases of 4%, 4% and 3%, in addition to increases in superannuation. As well, at the end of each year, an additional lump sum payment will be paid if the inflation figure exceeds the percentage increase in that year. This cost of living top-up is payable (to a maximum lump sum of 3% of salary) based on the difference between the increase in the CPI for Brisbane in the March quarter (calculated over a year) and the percentage pay increase for that year. Teachers in Queensland also enjoy good conditions: for example, teacher release time in primary schools is 2.5 hours per week and superannuation is well in excess of super paid to NSW teachers.

Next steps

The union will continue to meet with dioceses on the workload issues and other matters that have been referred to localised diocesan negotiations.

We have been highlighting teacher shortages at both the state and federal level and will be campaigning with NSW Members of Parliament about the public sector wages policy.

We continue to press the dioceses for a realistic settlement of all the issues in dispute.