Catholic schools mull industrial action

Catholic schools mull industrial action

Canberra Catholic schools are considering industrial action after negotiations between their union and the system’s representative body collapsed yesterday.

The development follows months after talks on a new enterprise agreement began and may affect up to 1,500 teachers in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

In a statement yesterday, the Independent Education Union (IEU) said that Catholic school teachers and support staff across NSW and the ACT are now planning a “series of rolling stop work actions” later this term to defend their right to a fair hearing in front of the industrial umpire.

“The negotiations … have stalled because the CCER is refusing to recognise the power of the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate on industrial disputes,” IEU secretary, John Quessy, said.

“If there is a dispute between employees and the employer, the employers want the power to veto the industrial umpire making a ruling on the matter.”

Quessy added that this leaves the union without the ability to enforce many conditions in the enterprise agreement and work practices agreement.

“I find it ironic that we are engaged in a dispute about how disputes are settled,” he said.

“It seems to me that once again the Catholic church is doing its best to avoid any scrutiny by an outside body,” Quessy said.

The CCER says it was disappointed that the union was calling for teachers to take strike action.

“The proposed Agreement, which is in its final stages, would see teachers’ salaries rise and the introduction of new measures to recognise a wider range of previous experience to fast-track pay increases,” CCER Executive Director, Tony Farley, said.

“But the Union is calling for teachers to take industrial action over an existing clause regarding dispute resolution.”

Farley said the clause is one that the IEU previously agreed to with Catholic schools and similar to the clause the union has agreed to apply to over 450 private schools in NSW and ACT.

“Every dollar spent fighting in the Commission is a dollar not spent on teaching in the classroom,” he said.

“We’re urging the Union to rethink its priorities to ensure teachers can begin receiving their higher pay and benefits as soon as possible. Let’s focus instead on the real challenges facing Catholic education as we confront expected changes to our funding.”