Hear our voice too!

CSO staff take protected action

IEU members employed in the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office (CSO) voted to take protected industrial action in the form of a one-hour stop-work on Thursday 6 June after talks with the diocese failed to reach an agreement on salaries.

Despite the rain, members were loud and proud, stopping traffic and making their voices heard in a united call for a better offer.

Read more, and see photos from the rally and march or watch a short highlights video.

In the Protected Action Ballot released by the independent balloting agent on 24 May, an unequivocal 99 per cent of members voted in favour of taking industrial action.

What’s happening

Members employed under the CSO Staff Enterprise Agreement (including teachers, school counsellors, professional officers and support staff) have long received the same pay increases as teachers in Catholic systemic schools, including a decade under a salary cap of just 2.5%.

The employer, the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese, has now refused to pass on the 8% increase paid to teachers in October 2023.

The diocese has said it doesn’t believe an 8% pay rise is warranted for this group of highly trained and skilled professionals, and has offered an increase of just 3% (up from an initial offer of 1.46%).

The employer’s failure to match pay rises in Catholic systemic schools means some highly experienced teachers who work in the CSO are now paid less than they would be if they worked in a school, despite having system-wide responsibilities for more than 58 schools in their roles in the CSO.

Support staff who work in the CSO have also been refused the increases paid to their counterparts in schools (ranging from 6% to 20%). These increases resulted from a successful IEU claim that rates of pay for support staff in Catholic systemic schools should be increased to match those in NSW government schools.

Salaries for school counsellors have also fallen far behind the salaries of their government school colleagues, meaning schools will struggle to retain this vital group of professionals.

Understandably, members are unhappy about the CSO’s refusal to recognise and respect the complexity of their work.

Members stand together

The IEU commends the members who have represented their CSO colleagues in the bargaining. This group has done extraordinary work, giving much of their own time to lead the campaign and talk to their colleagues about the issues and encourage them to vote in the Protected Action Ballot. The results show they are united in their push for the same increase as school teachers.

The union thanks members in Maitland-Newcastle schools, the Hunter Valley Sub Branch, and the IEU Executive, who have all moved motions of support calling on the diocese to agree to pay an 8% salary increase, retrospective to October 2023, in line with historical arrangements.

Members now have the right to take industrial action, including to stop work, the right to display campaign materials, and the right to communicate with the public and the media.

Employers heard the voice of teachers in schools. It is now time for them to hear the voice of the CSO staff.

Therese Fitzgibbon