Focus on principals

I decided to get involved because I could see there was a changing agenda. Rather than sit back and watch it happen I decided to be proactive.

Principals’ Branch meeting on 1 August was a significant one in a number of ways. It was likely to be the penultimate (if not last) meeting held at the Union’s Wentworth St office in Parramatta, as the IEU is about to take up a new residence in North Parramatta.

It also marked the recommencement of negotiations for the Catholic systemic principals enterprise agreement (EA). Negotiations have been on hold while the teachers and general employees EA was hammered out over the last 14 months.

Principals Branch Convenor Pam Smith said the negotiations were likely to take several months, but should be shorter than the teachers’ negotiations.

Recent news that the Archdiocese of Sydney and perhaps another diocese want to negotiate a separate EA with principals was an added complication.

IEU Deputy Secretary Gloria Taylor outlined her take on how negotiations were likely to unfold. She said phase one was likely to focus on pay parity between primary and secondary principals.

“The IEU is not against parity in principle as long no one is worse off,” Gloria said.

“There is an issue of ‘frozen salaries’ that we are concerned about.”

Other issues could be the AITSL standards for principals, and how they might be linked to pay.

Pam said the Union did not want standards to be used as a “stick” and Gloria said that the idea of standards or performance linked pay was coming from employers and not BOSTES or AITSL.

Another significant negotiating tool could be the Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2011 carried out by the Australian Catholic University.

This survey found some principals reported significant problems with bullying and violence and that their health and wellbeing was negatively affected by workload pressure. The report can be downloaded: It was also summarised in IE Magazine this year Issue 1 Vol 45 Principals under Pressure p22.

The Catholic ethos clause, which was a sticking point during the negotiations for teachers, could prove to be a problem too, Gloria said.

The Union understood Catholic independent schools were not keen on the Catholic ethos clause, and preferred individual arrangements, as they were such a diverse sector with their own congregations.

IEU Organiser Jackie Groom said in the ACT the three independent Catholic principals have resisted the Catholic ethos clause.

Pam reported that in the independent schools sector, the MEAs voted on in 2014 are in place for teachers and operational staff. Negotiations are continuing for EAs for Christian schools.

Alan LeBrocque flew in from Griffith for his second ever Principals Branch meeting. The Marian Catholic College Griffith Principal decided to become more active after 30 years of Union membership because he has “a passionate belief” in the work of the IEU.

“It’s interesting to see how things operate at the next level, and to be able to provide a voice for principals in my region,” Alan said.

There are 32 schools in his diocese, with five secondary schools. He’s the only principal representing the area at the Branch.

Alan said he was excited rather than fearful about the direction leadership was going, but it was good to have the IEU as a support for principals entering into negotiations.

“I’m relieved to hear we’re not starting with something new as the teachers had to, but using what we already have as the basis for negotiations,” he said.

Also new to the Principals Branch, Therese Seymour is Principal of St Joseph’s Primary School in Alstonville. She’s the longest serving primary principal in the Lismore Diocese.

“I decided to get involved because I could see there was a changing agenda for principals. Rather than sit back and watch it happen I decided to be proactive,” Therese said.

“Solidarity is important to principals and it’s important we get this EA right and not rush it,” she said.

“It’s really good for principals to be informed by the IEU so you can support your staff and fellow principals, especially new principals.

“It was good for the staff to know I was an IEU member during their EA negotiations. If staff know you are in the IEU they believe you know where they are coming from.”

As well as industrial matters, Principals Branch canvassed the forthcoming IEU Environment Conference, BOSTES accreditation for teachers and principals, Facebook usage by teachers and news from individual dioceses.

The meeting was attended by a range of principals from Catholic metropolitan and regional dioceses and from the independent sector. The next Principals Branch meeting is on 7 November.

Sue Osborne