As the Omicron wave surged in early January, the IEU hit the ground running to ensure the safest possible start to the year for all members. Here’s how.
One of the ways the IEU lobbies government and pressures employers is through the media. The IEU released four statements to the media in the week beginning 10 January. These statements were widely picked up and reported on in mainstream and regional media.
Throughout January, the union met with the NSW Department of Education about COVID-19 safety measures and held talks with NESA to clarify accreditation issues raised by the NSW Premier in the media to ensure professional standards are not eroded.
We contacted employers, including the Directors of the 11 Catholic dioceses and the Association of Independent Schools with a 12-point plan to keep schools as safe as possible, including adequate ventilation and no additions to already heavy workloads. We’ve taken countless calls and emails addressing individual members’ concerns.
As the year begins, we urge members to hold Chapter meetings and invite your Organiser so the union knows your needs. And as the year proceeds, we urge all employers to consult at the level of individual schools, listen to staff concerns, and provide all reasonable support.
The IEU supports free, readily available rapid-antigen tests (RATs).
Consultation is crucial
As infection rates soared, the union released a statement to the media on 10 January calling for the NSW Government to consult with school staff through their union to provide a clear plan for the start of the school year.
We called for consultation on crucial work health and safety protections including classroom ventilation; access to free rapid-antigen tests; vaccination of students, especially those aged 5-11; booster shots for school staff; and strategies to mitigate current and growing staff shortages.
“The situation was confusing for teachers, employers, parents and the union,” said IEUA NSW/ACT Assistant Secretary Pam Smith on 10 January. “It is critical that everyone’s health and safety be protected to prevent the return to school becoming a super-spreader event.”
The NSW Government subsequently released its return-to-school plan on 23 January, and representatives from the Department of Education met with the IEU on 24 January to address the union’s concerns about safe workplaces.