Some things change, others stay the same

On 1 January 2010 the NSW Government referred its industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth for all private sector workers leaving only public servants covered by NSW Awards and regulation by the State Industrial Commission.

Employees of the 11 Catholic dioceses moved into the federal industrial relations system at that time, under what the IEU described then as an ‘orderly transition’, whereby we replicated the existing state awards and state enterprise agreements into federal enterprise agreements (EAs).

Even before 2010 the Union had been making federal EAs in the independent school sector and for some early childhood services and private post secondary colleges.

This was all possible because when our members join the Union they join two bodies, the state organisation (NSW Independent Education Union) and the federal body (Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch).

For most of our existence we operated almost entirely from the state organisation with that body making all decisions, employing staff and owning the assets of the Union. Over the past few years as our work has become almost exclusively work in the federal jurisdiction and operating under the Fair Work Act (and related legislation) that has been gradually changing although most members would scarcely have noticed.

We are fortunate that our State Executive and Federal Branch Executive are made up of the same people and although they meet as different bodies we have been able to transact Union business in the appropriate forums. We are committed to ensuring that the rules and practices of our Union reflect the reality of what we do and how we do it.

The coming year will see some further changes both financial and organisational. On a financial level the majority of our business will be conducted by the Branch with the state organisation responsible for real assets such as property. The employment of current staff will transfer from the state organisation to the federal branch, a requirement of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act, the legislation under which we operate.

Part of the commercial changes are that member fees will be paid directly into the Federal Branch account rather than into the account of the state organisation and these changes will be phased in so that most members will not need to take any action to facilitate these arrangements.

There is a need to make some changes to the rules of both the state organisation and the branch of the federal Union and much of the preliminary work on this has been done leaving the formalities to be completed in the first half of 2016.

The purpose of these rule changes will be to ensure that the democratic and representational structures of the IEU continue in their current form. The supreme decision making body of the state organisation is the Council made up of elected delegates from the 20 branches, the Union Executive and the professional and Industrial officers of the Union.

Almost all the business conducted by the Council is now of a federal nature and should be conducted in a Federal Branch forum. At present the Branch rules do not include sub-branches or Branch Council. The rules will be amended to set up these structures in terms similar to the bodies that currently operate. Once established these will replace the existing bodies however the timing of this is largely in the hands of the Fair Work Commission.

The principle of these modifications has been discussed and approved by the current State Executive and Council as well as the Branch Executive. It is agreed that the existing local Branch and Council structures will be replicated for the federal Union modified only for any compliance requirements of the Fair Work Act. The relevant bodies will consider specific amendments in coming months.

While all this is necessary to comply with the existing legislation under which the Union operates, it is likely that the vast majority of members will notice no change. Your Union will continue to be the NSW/ACT IEU with the same officers and staff and will still provide the same high level of service, advice and advocacy for members.

John Quessy
General Secretary