It's time to deal with unfinished business

John Quessy
General Secretary

This year begins with considerable unfinished business from 2014. Members in schools operated by the 11 Catholic dioceses are still without an updated Enterprise Agreement and dozens of independent schools are awaiting the completion of their MEAs by the Fair Work Commission. Agreement making for Catholic independent schools, which began late in the year, is also unfinished although progress is steady and the Union will be consulting with members in coming weeks.

Negotiations in the Catholic systemic sector have been protracted and further negotiations in late January have not resolved outstanding key differences. Catholic employers continue to insist on significant changes to the salary structure for teachers, sick leave and a range of matters impacting on the work of both teaching and non-teaching staff. At the same time Catholic employers are refusing to include in the Agreement as entitlements a number of the Union’s claims which they say they are already meeting.

In particular the Union insists that employers in this sector must meet the induction and mentoring standard set by the NSW Government for its schools. Employers claim to be meeting or near meeting this level of support yet refuse to include this assistance as an entitlement for all those involved in working towards accreditation at proficient level and for those who are mentoring and guiding them.

This refusal – this studied miserableness – says much about the employers’ true attitude to the profession. They might allocate resources to this important function but they won’t agree to being required to do so. They prefer a regime of grace and favour.

In coming weeks the Union and Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) on behalf of employers will exchange a final set of proposals to resolve the impasse. If unsuccessful we will take the matter directly to members for action.

Elsewhere in Newsmonth we report on the answers major political parties provided to a set of questions from the IEU about issues that impact on our members and their work. Although the vast majority of us operate industrially in the federal sphere many of our working conditions emerge from policy and decisions of the State Government and the results of the NSW election on March 28 will continue to have significant impact on our members.

Since the last election we have witnessed cuts to the education budget of some $1.7 billion, the freezing of funding to non-government schools, continued deterioration of the early childhood subsidy to support professional salaries, the systematic dismantling of TAFE and the destruction of workers compensation for those who are injured at work. On top of this the current Government has introduced an artificially low wages cap for the public sector and when challenged has exploited every legal opportunity and loophole to force this policy on workers. Our sector is not immune from these cutbacks.

Unions NSW is sponsoring a number of Meet the Candidates forums where constituents can put their questions directly to those seeking political office and as the IEU becomes aware of these details we will email our members in the relevant electorates with the particulars.

Union commitment to best practice and mentoring

2015 sees another ambitious year for the Union in respect of our symposium and professional agenda. Securing our Future held over two days in May, a conference devoted to best practice induction and mentoring in the teaching profession, exemplifies the IEU’s commitment to these fundamentally important aspects of our profession. Conferences devoted to Environment and Sustainability as well as those specifically targeting our Support Staff and Early Childhood members are also scheduled.

Our partnership with Teachers Learning Network provides a new dimension to our PD agenda adding to our PiP program where new and revised forums and workshops are proposed.

The Union is building on our publications iPad App and introducing a new iPhone and Android application to assist particularly our casual and part time members keep records of their teaching service. This App, to be released in early February includes features to alert graduate teachers seeking accreditation at proficient level to key dates in their timeline.

Although not an exhaustive list of planned activities 2015 is already a busy year for the Union.