Members take to the streets
Thousands of Catholic systemic school members stopped work and hundreds took to the streets throughout NSW and the ACT to press their demands on 27 May.
The union’s claim for new enterprise agreements (covering members in 600 Catholic diocesan schools in NSW and the ACT) includes:
• Pay teachers what they’re worth (an increase of 10-15% over two years)
• Give support staff a fair deal
• Let teachers teach – cut paperwork
• Allow time to plan
• End staff shortages.
Rallies across the state and territory garnered extensive media coverage, sending a clear message to employers that members would keep fighting until their claims were answered.
College co-operates on claims
It’s not every day a school pays for staff to develop a log of claims.
In an act of good faith bargaining, Xavier College Principal William Doherty agreed to pay a full day’s salary to 10 staff representatives to spend a Saturday developing their claims with IEU organisers.
The day began with the drafting of a shared mission statement: “To work with collegiality, honesty, and integrity to create a friendly, compassionate workplace where cura personalis is at the heart and centre”. (Cura personalis means ‘care for the entire person’.)
Each item in the log of claims is intended to underpin that mission statement and guide staff during negotiations on behalf of 120 members and other staff at the two-campus Catholic secondary school in Kew, in Melbourne’s east.
In a gesture of solidarity, staff are pushing for all teaching allocations to be set at 18 hours and 30 minutes per week.
The meeting also united in support of primary and secondary teachers being treated equally and declared war on job insecurity, insisting that no part-timers have their year-to-year teaching allocations reduced without mutual agreement.
Given that many part-time staff are women and/or single parents, it was held that the existing clause fails the ‘care of the whole person’ test.
Vaccine mandate: Yes or no?
The current SA health advice is that vaccine mandates for school staff are no longer necessary. The Chief Public Health Officer advised that vaccination is not essential in schools, but it is still recommended.
This leaves three options for schools to consider:allow unvaccinated staff to return with no restrictionsallow unvaccinated staff on site but with some restrictionsallow only vaccinated staff on site.
There is evidence that unvaccinated people are more contagious, but the IEU is also concerned about the risk unvaccinated students would pose to staff (vaccinatedor not).
Where school management considers a policy to be more restrictive than the health advice, genuine consultation with employees and the IEU is vital.
The IEU will engage with all employers to balance the health advice with local risk tolerance.
Catholic agreement under consideration
At the time of publication, a 2.3% wage rise per annum over four years is being considered by members employed in Catholic schools against the context of the government’s wage position of one-off payments totalling $10,000 over four years.
However, the offer is less than the current wages achieved by Lutheran members in collective bargaining negotiations.
The employer wage position does not ease the burden of rising cost of living or inflation pressures.
Another key concern relates to hours of duty provisions, some covered in the collective agreement and others in employer policy.
The school officer review materials have been finalised, with all the school officer provisions and classifications being consolidated.
As a result of the review, most school officers in the Catholic sector will now have a 37-hour work week, reduced from a previous 37.5-hour full-time work week.
The laptop hire program for non-remote schools has ceased, with the clause removed from the collective agreement.
Under this program, teachers had to pay $10 per week in fees over a period of three years to the employer to hire a compulsory work laptop.
Action to stop undermining of teacher librarians
IEU teacher librarians and school officer members working in school libraries are taking action to address concerns about the degradation of their professional status.
Staff employed in school libraries are highly skilled and their roles are crucial to the effective functioning of schools and provision of quality education to students.
There are fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of school library work, often exacerbated by the invisibility of that work.
Libraries and their staff are often seen as expendable during tough times.
Additionally, access to qualified staff, a well-developed collection of resources, physical facilities and infrastructure is inequitable.
To address this, the IEU-QNT Education Committee, along with several members working in school libraries, are undertaking research to identify solutions.
Their aim is to develop a ‘Vision Statement for the 21st Century School Library’ that will articulate resource and staffing allocations consistent with quality library services.
It is hoped that the ‘Vision Statement’ will assist in negotiations with employers during upcoming collective bargaining.
Bargaining process needs reform
The recent experience of bargaining in Tasmania has exposed a major flaw in the system governing the negotiation of agreements.
Under current laws, only employers can apply for a single interest suthorisation (SIA) that enables the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to issue bargaining orders forcing a party not bargaining in good faith to behave reasonably.
Because employees or their unions can’t apply for an SIA, there is little they can do legally when employers refuse to meet at reasonable times or try to rush the process. Faced with a poor multi-employer enterprise agreement, employees have few options other than voting ‘no’.
In Tasmania, where many IEU members are covered by such agreements, a group of employers put up a proposed enterprise bargaining agreement with a timeline of meetings which made it impossible for meaningful discussions to occur before a scheduled vote. The employers didn’t apply for an SIA, so the FWC couldn’t issue orders forcing the employer to bargain in good faith. Two of the five schools involved voted ‘no’.
The IEU strongly believes the system needs to be fixed. If employers can apply for single interest authorisations, unions should be able to as well.
Australian Capital Territory
PD program boosts practice
High Impact Teaching Practice (HITP) is well known to teachers in ACT Catholic systemic schools.
It is a four-to-five day professional learning course that focuses on four phases: theory, demonstration, practice and coaching. The program supports teachers to implement research-based instructional practices in the classroom that improve student engagement and outcomes.
HITP is based on Barak Rosenshine’s 17 ‘Principles of Instruction’ that ‘master’ teachers often employ, including: begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning; present new material in small steps with student practice after each step; limit the amount of material students receive at one time; give clear, detailed instructions and explanations; ask a large number of questions and check for understanding; provide a high level of active practice for all students. For all 17 points: futurelearn.com/info/courses/early-career-teachers/0/steps/164331
Teachers agree that the program is beneficial, although it requires many hours of additional work.