Catholic systemic schools: Progress at last

The IEU is inching towards a settlement with all NSW and ACT Catholic dioceses (except Broken Bay) which would achieve two of our key demands while discussions continue on the core issues of teacher workload and release. Separate discussions are occurring with Broken Bay.

Following a conference in the Fair Work Commission, the parties are discussing a mechanism that would provide for:

  • increases in support staff pay including back pay, and
  • improved parental leave that will benefit both mothers and their partners who are primary carers of children within the first year after the birth or adoption.

The IEU has proposed that the agreed terms be included in an Order of the Fair Work Commission that would operate in conjunction with the current Catholic Systemic Schools Enterprise Agreement (the EA) and would be in effect a variation to the EA, without requiring a formal vote of employees.

This would allow members to enjoy the benefits of the improved conditions while also being able to quickly flow on any improvements in rates of pay in the public sector that occur this year. This approach is necessary because employers have not agreed to make a new EA that is only in place until the end of the year (the IEU’s preferred position) and the IEU is not prepared to agree to a longer-term EA.

If major changes to teacher classifications, pay and release time are finalised in the public sector either this year or later, these improvements would then be incorporated in a new enterprise agreement of longer duration.

Teacher release time

A general reduction in teaching time, in line with our original claim from late 2021, has not been agreed. Our claim reflected the claim of the NSW Teachers Federation on behalf of teachers in NSW government schools.

The Federation has also been unable to achieve any reduction in teaching time and required teaching hours in government secondary schools were not reduced in the new Award made in November 2022.

As the Federation has noted, reductions in face-to-face teaching are extremely difficult to achieve, and the gains that have been made in the past have been hard fought by union members.

The IEU is continuing to discuss with dioceses reductions in teaching time in two areas. The first is regular time-tabled release for early career teachers and their mentors (two hours per week for the new teacher and one hour per week for the mentor).

The second is release for all teachers to assist with implementing the new curricula. In early April, the dioceses confirmed to the IEU in writing their current arrangements and IEU Organisers are reviewing whether they meet our claim to match the release available in government schools.

Teacher workload

The IEU has negotiated with dioceses on key areas of teacher workload including programming, data collection and assessment, NCCD evidence collection, reporting, mentoring and processes such as professional growth in action. Although progress is slow, dioceses have adopted strategies such as development of resources and sample programs, reduction in reporting requirements, re-commitment to compliance with the NCCD Fact Sheet, etc. The IEU will continue to pursue reductions in teacher workload with all dioceses.

We will also be raising teacher workload with the new NSW Labor government to identify how existing pressures can be reduced by government action.

The public sector union Essential Workers Deserve Better campaign, in which the IEU participated, was pivotal in the Labor win and we expect our issues to be addressed.

Do not hesitate to contact your IEU Organiser if you would like help with a workload issue in your workplace.

Carol Matthews
Acting Secretary