Catholic offer falls short yet again

On 15 December 2022, the IEU received a letter from Catholic Employment Relations (CER) in response to our claims for improved pay and conditions for teachers and support staff in Catholic systemic schools.

Some diocesan directors described this as “a complete offer” and the “best possible outcome” for the new enterprise agreement (EA).

However, the offer still falls short, as the directors must have understood.

CER stated that the dioceses will match the pay offers made by the NSW and ACT governments for staff in NSW and ACT government schools.

However, the offer they have made fails to match the package in the government sector.

A three-year enterprise agreement

Catholic dioceses are proposing an EA that would be in force for three years from the date of approval of the EA by the Fair Work Commission. Even if an EA were made quickly this year (and we still have not received any draft EA clauses, let alone a complete draft of the EA) this would mean the EA would be in place until mid 2026. In the government sector, the teachers award has a nominal term until the end of next year, 2024.

For teachers, CER has agreed to match “percentage increases on base wages” in the government sector during the period of the EA but the union would be unable to make any other claims for improvements in conditions or for new classifications that might be implemented in government schools. The offer also does not include matching of lump sum payments as occurred in 2022.

For support staff in NSW and the ACT, in 2024 and 2025, percentage pay rises would reflect those paid in NSW government schools but would be paid six months later – this would mean that the 2024 pay rise would be paid in January 2025 and support staff would not receive any increase in 2024!

It is an unprecedented proposal that the Catholic Systemic Schools EA would extend nearly two years beyond the government sector award and preclude the union from making claims for such a long period.

Support staff pay increases

CER has not agreed to our claim for pay increases for support staff in line with rates applying in government schools. It appears that sticking points are rates of pay for senior administrative staff in schools with an enrolment below 400 students and the definitions of the classifications for Aboriginal Education Officers. The pay rates and details of classifications proposed by CER have still not been provided to the union.

It is an unprecedented proposal that the Catholic Systemic Schools EA would extend nearly two years beyond the government sector award, and preclude the union from making claims for such a long period.

Additional release time

The NSW government has agreed to additional release for teachers in NSW government schools to focus on curriculum reform. For primary school teachers this will be an extra five hours per term in 2023, increasing to 10 hours per term in 2024 and 2025. Secondary school teachers will receive an extra five hours per term in each of 2023, 2024 and 2025.

This release is in addition to existing release from face-to-face teaching and release for early career teachers. Part-time teachers and teachers in promotions positions will get the release in proportion to their teaching load.

However, our employers have refused to match this!

In a letter in April this year, CER stated “Should the NSW and ACT public sector teachers arrive at a position whereby additional RFF is achieved, the dioceses would, at least, commit to matching this change”. Notwithstanding this, in their December letter CER state that the union must negotiate with each individual diocese for extra release time. Although some dioceses have indicated a commitment to providing extra release on an ad hoc basis in 2023, most dioceses have not agreed to do so.

Reducing workload

Several dioceses have engaged in constructive discussions with the union about addressing teacher workload. However, there has been no development of comprehensive guidelines to achieve this, as has occurred in NSW government schools. In government schools, it is claimed that in 2022, under the Quality Time Program, a reduction of administrative work of 29 hours over a year per teacher was achieved (towards a goal of 40 hours).

In government schools, many resources are now available for optional use by teachers through the Universal Resources Hub, including lesson plans, units of work and scope and sequence documents.

Next steps

IEU officers are continuing to press CER and dioceses on our claims. We will do all we can to get some improvements in coming months. Clearly the outcome of the state election on 25 March will be crucial in terms of achieving higher pay increases as dioceses (other than Broken Bay) are refusing to pay higher increases than permitted under the NSW government public sector pay policy.

We will provide more detail to members in Catholic systemic schools in coming weeks.