Ringing endorsement: Catholic independent members vote yes to new MEAs

Teachers and support staff in Catholic independent schools Models A, B and C have voted overwhelmingly to endorse new multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs). It’s been a long road, with the victory following almost three years of bargaining.

Through a formal voting process, between 90%-100% of teachers and support staff in all three models approved the agreements.

“We were able to achieve this outstanding result because of the many members who were prepared to turn up at meetings at their schools and make clear their support for our claims,” said IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Carol Matthews. “This support was essential for our success.”

This big win means pay rises and improved parental leave for teachers and support staff in all three groups of Catholic independent schools, referred to as Models A, B and C schools. The agreements will bring positive changes for teachers and support staff in about 40 schools.

The MEAs for Model A will be in place for two years; and the Models B and C MEAs will be in place for three years.

For an MEA to be legally binding on an employer, it must be endorsed by a vote of employees of that employer and lodged with the Fair Work Commission for approval, and we anticipate this will occur by the end of April. Once approved, we will post the full agreements on our website.

Better pay and conditions

The newly endorsed agreements include significant pay rises which reflect the increases seen in government and Catholic schools in NSW. There are additional pay rises for Models A and B, which are maintaining their premiums.

The new MEAs also provide for several improved conditions, including more detailed rights to request flexible working arrangements, a more flexible requirement for the evidence needed for personal/carer’s leave, plus a number of boosts to parental leave.

How we got here

To secure the new agreements, the IEU defeated a last-minute obstacle posed by the employers. Last year, following in-principle agreements, the IEU presented a draft of the MEAs to Catholic Employment Relations (CER), who inserted provisions stipulating that an employee who left prior to the formal commencement of the MEAs would not be entitled to back pay.

While most schools had commenced paying the new rates and the back pay in accordance with the in-principle agreements late in 2023, not all schools did this, so the right to back pay was jeopardised.

The union pushed back – back pay was a key component of the deal and we insisted the employers honour it.

After CER refused to withdraw this provision, the IEU lodged a bargaining dispute with the Fair Work Commission in early December 2023. The commission scheduled a conference to resolve the dispute, but just days before it was to go ahead, CER returned to the negotiating table, on 18 January 2024. They agreed to remove the provision that would have prevented employees who leave from receiving back pay.

By standing firm, the IEU reached agreement with the employers on the terms of all the MEAs. We are always stronger when we stand together.

The IEU congratulates members on their substantially improved pay and conditions, and we thank you for your support and determination through this lengthy process.