Despite a long tradition of Catholic school year timetables matching government schools, the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn has decided to re-organise their school year out of step with ACT government schools, adding an extra day to their staff’s timetable.
The NSW and ACT Catholic Systemic Schools Enterprise Agreement 2015 states, in Annexure D, that “the parties agree that the school year in ACT school will be organised in line with ACT government schools”.
This clause has operated since at least the 1990s and has ensured that teachers in ACT Catholic schools have worked the same days (or less) than their government counterparts. That is, the school years have been in line, unless the Archdiocese had exempted employees from working certain days with the aligned school year.
In the second half of last year it became apparent to the Union that the Archdiocese had decided to ignore the Agreement: while the ACT government schools timetable for 2017 had been known for a long time, the Archdiocese unilaterally decided to organise the school year in a way that was not in line with ACT government schools.
The ACT government school term dates calendar is unambiguous: Term 2 starts on 26 April 2017. Yet the Archdiocese decided that it would start their ACT school term on 24 April, the Monday between the end of a weekend period and Anzac Day. Apart from representing a deliberate breach of the Agreement, it also placed Catholic school teachers, students and families out of sync with the rest of the community.
Following a series of meetings and exchanges of correspondence between the Archdiocese, the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) and the Union, on 9 December 2016 the IEU made an application to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for it to deal with the dispute. In early February a conciliation process was run under the auspices of the Fair Work Commission. This process failed to resolve the matter.