Strike orders before Fair Work Commission

Negoiations for a new enterprise agreement for teachers and support staff employed in Catholic systemic schools have been underway since late 2016. In late June, the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER), on behalf of the 11 NSW and ACT Catholic dioceses, advised the Union that they were not prepared to move on some key issues, including the dispute resolution process in their proposed agreement. Work practice issues are also outstanding.

The Union sought to resolve these issues with the employers but in mid July CCER confirmed that the employers were not prepared to change their position in respect of their proposed enterprise agreement. By 31 July 2017 over 500 union chapters in Catholic systemic schools had sent motions endorsing the Union to commence the process for protected action in their school.

Fair Work Commission

On 2 August the Union lodged the application to the Fair Work Commission for Protected Action Ballot Orders (PABOs) to commence the process of over 500 ballots on protected action to be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission.

This matter was listed before the Fair Work Commission on 4 August 2017. The CCER advised the Fair Work Commission that they were opposing the making of the Protected Action Ballot Orders on the technical basis that their proposed enterprise agreement was a multi-enterprise agreement. The Union has pressed the right to strike on behalf of our members. The Fair Work Commission was due to hear these technical arguments on Tuesday, 29 August. The Union was hopeful of a quick decision given that the Fair Work Commission is required by law to determine applications for Protected Action Ballots as quickly as possible.

The Union will inform members of the outcome immediately.

Negotiations continuing

In the meantime we are continuing to meet with CCER and have urged them to resolve all outstanding issues. The Union has advised CCER that we do not understand the employers’ intransigence on the arbitration issue. Employers insist that disputes that are referred to the Fair Work Commission for mediation or conciliation cannot then be resolved by the Fair Work Commission where conciliation fails to resolve the matter, unless both sides agree. The Union is also trying to resolve outstanding work practice issues with dioceses.

No agreement

On Thursday, 24 August the Union was provided by CCER with the revised employer draft of their proposed multi-enterprise agreement (the previous draft received was from February). CCER has acknowledged that, even apart from the disputed issues, the document provided was not a finalised agreement. Unless the changes to the document sought by the Union are agreed, the Union will be advising members to vote ‘no’ should dioceses proceed to put this document to the vote.

Carol Matthews
Assistant Secretary