TEACHERS and staff from two Bathurst schools walked off the job on Monday for the second time in less than a month in protest against a proposed enterprise agreement (EA).
The Catholic Diocese of Bathurst staff joined workers from 350 schools across NSW and the ACT in the industrial action to fight for rights to arbitration and work loads.
Rallies were held across NSW and the ACT, with staff from the Assumption School and St Philomena’s Catholic Primary School joining the Bathurst rally.
Fourteen people from the Assumption School walked off the job to attend the four-hour meeting, including Matt Hayes.
He said the right to arbitration was critical for all staff and adequate work loads must be maintained.
“It’s not about us inconveniencing people, it’s about taking a stand,” Mr Hayes said of the teachers’ action.
He said the proposed EA took power away from the employees and gave it to employers.
St Philomena’s Shane Hanley said some people in the community had the wrong perception of what the strike was about.
“We’re here for the kids’ education, but we also want to make sure that we have the right to arbitrate and that we get a fair deal,” he said.
“We’re all worried that if we lose our right to arbitrate that we’ll have to cop whatever deal is given to us in the future as far as pay and also as far as our work conditions.”
Independent Education Union Central West co-ordinator Jackie Groom was at the Bathurst rally and said arbitration was an “invaluable right”.
“When your workloads and your employment conditions are under threat or in dispute, and it can’t be resolved by conciliation, then you should have right like any other worker in Australia to go to an umpire, to go to arbitration,” she said.
Ms Groom said employers were encouraging staff to vote yes on the proposed EA on December 5 in order to receive a 2.5 per cent pay rise that was settled nearly a year ago.
“Our members cannot be bought, we will not sell-off the right that you have worked so hard to achieve,” she said.
Teachers and staff then took part in a silent march to the Catholic Education office on Gilmour Street
“It’s a silent march up the hill because our members are speechless that the director has taken this stand in relation to their enterprise agreement and their right to arbitration,” Ms Groom said.
“We’re about to present a petition to the director asking her to change her mind and give our members and her employees what they deserve."
Letter to parents
The Independent Education Union (IEU) provided copies of a letter to parents that describes why the industrial action was being taken.
The extensive letter said the Assumption School and St Philomena's Catholic Primary School were among 350 schools across NSW and the ACT taking part.
A key issue in the bargaining has been the right of employees to refer a dispute about their working conditions as contained in the enterprise agreement asnd other documents to the Fair Work Commission for concilliation and then arbitration, the letter states.
"Without such a right, the only way an employee can enforce a right in the enterprise agreement is by taking an expensive and stressful case to court," it reads.
“Employees have also sought to make longstanding agreements on matters such as class sizes, face-to-face teaching hours and release from face-to-face teaching for preparation and marking unenforceable and they can now be terminated by the employer at will.”
The letter also asks parents to be understanding.
“The union members at this school seek your understanding and support for the action we have taken,” it states.
Motion, December 4, 2017
This meeting of IEU members employed in the Catholic systemic schools condemns our employer for distributing to employees in the Catholic systemic schools an Enterprise Agreement that has not been endorsed by the union.
Further, the meeting:
- Rejects the absence of arbitration rights in the EA with the consequence that it is practically unenforceable;
- Rejects the removal of the ability to enforce the Work Practice Agreements that can now also be amended or cancelled at will by employers; and
- Condemns the hypocrisy of Catholic employers who say they stand for social justice and the rights of workers, but deny a pay rise to their own employees who want to retain their rights at work.
This meeting calls on all employees in Catholic systemic schools to vote no to this unfair and unjust employer enterprise agreement.
We will do everything possible to maximise the no vote in our schools.
We commit to maintain this fight until our rights are guaranteed in our Enterprise Agreement and we receive the pay rise all employees in our schools are owed.
We will meet again early in term one, 2018 to consider the employer’s response.