There is a certain irony that on 21 August this year 140 IEU members attended our Support Staff Conference Work Well on what was almost to the day the 21st anniversary of the Union changing its name to the IEU.
Many reading this and the vast majority of those who have received 30 year membership badges initially joined not the IEU but the Independent Teachers’ Association (ITA). It was a Union only of teachers until 1993 when in a move towards industry unionism the ITA negotiated coverage and industrial representation of first teacher aides and school assistants and then those who worked in clerical roles.
The Union recognised this new coverage almost immediately and August Council 1994 officially changed the Union name to reflect our new reality. From the handful of non teacher members then, that group has grown in number towards 20% of our membership. And they have grown in voice and confidence.
A significant number of conference attendees were from the Catholic sector and many, if not most, shared stories of stop work rallies last year in protest at the disrespect Catholic employers had shown them and their work in Enterprise Agreement (EA) proposals.
Employers had offered an EA that reduced wages and trashed conditions. They claimed that support staff were overpaid for the work they did.
Employers failed. They failed because our support staff members stood up to them, because when teachers stopped work so too did they. The stood up and they showed up in significant numbers at rallies and stop work actions throughout NSW and the ACT.
That they won that battle is important not only for those in the Catholic sector who stood to suffer immediate loss but also for all members. If employers in other sectors had seen wages and conditions decline in Catholic schools they would certainly have tried the same.
It is not merely rhetoric in the union movement when we say “Attack one of us and you attack all of us”.