Keeping 'super' schools secure

We will be left vulnerable and unable to protect our basic entitlements if we have no right to arbitration.

Along with the massive growth in new housing estates in the western suburbs has come a new model of ‘super’ schools.

These schools, such as John XXIII Primary/St Mark’s Catholic College campus in Stanhope Gardens and St Luke’s Catholic College in Marsden Park, cater for all age groups, preschool to Year 12, on one campus.

John XXIII/St Mark’s has about 1600 students and nearly 200 staff. Teachers at these schools have the opportunity to move between secondary and primary teaching.

The new ways of working at these schools, under the Diocese of Parramatta, create challenges for the IEU. The Union wants to ensure all members have their rights and entitlements protected.

For instance, the early childhood teachers that work on this campus are not being paid at the same rate as their primary and secondary colleagues. IEU is encouraging all early childhood teachers to join the Union so it can negotiate a better deal for them.

It’s also important the school’s members support the campaign to make sure the employer cannot stop the Union accessing the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate a matter.

One way the Union has to get its message across in the new ‘super schools’ is to have good reps on board. John XXIII/St Mark’s is lucky to have two such reps.

Primary Rep Robert Matulewicz has been with the school about 10 years and was formerly the secondary IEU rep, as he has taught at both levels.

“It definitely makes you grow as a teacher and understand that teaching is not about a year group, it’s about forming relationships and understanding your students,” Robert said.

Robert became the rep about four years ago because he has a strong sense of social justice and a belief in collective bargaining.

“People said I would be a good listener with an ability to help others solve problems, so they encouraged me to take the role.”

Robert said the Union needed the ability to go to the Fair Work Commission as an insurance against future difficulties.

“We may not have needed it so far, but I believe in the power of ‘yet’. We need it in our back pocket just in case.”

Tony Walsh has been the secondary rep for about two years and he draws on his background of 30 years project management experience as well as his 10 years teaching experience to help him in the role.

“It’s a critical job to have the Union backing. It’s just like putting on a seatbelt when you drive a car.”

Tony spoke eloquently at the school’s recent chapter meeting on the issue of arbitration.

“The Fair Work Commission is a fundamental right if we have a dispute with an employer,” Tony said.

“We have an umpire to go to and the Union is there to help us understand when we need to go to that umpire.

“Currently we don’t have the right to go to arbitration unless the employer agrees to it and that leaves us with a big hole.

“A positive effect of these negotiations is that they certainly reinforce the benefits of a good Union. Many new employees have recognised this and joined the already very strong membership.”

Tony said state schools and Catholic schools in both Victoria and Queensland have the right to arbitration.

“We will be left vulnerable and unable to protect our basic entitlements if we have no right to arbitration.”

Sue Osborne