Catholic schools vote to strike

Catholic teachers and support staff will stop work on July 17 in their fight a new enterprise agreement they say erodes pay and conditions.
Catholic teachers and support staff will stop work on July 17 in their fight a new enterprise agreement they say erodes pay and conditions.

CATHOLIC Teachers and support staff will stop work in the first week of term 3 after almost 90 per cent of Diocese of Wollongong Catholic systemic schools voted to take industrial action.

Independent Education Union general secretary John Quessy said the results sent a strong message to employers that teachers and support staff in Catholic schools would not accept threats to pay, conditions and job security.

“Even the difficult logistics of 35 separate ballots were not enough to dampen Diocese of Wollongong members’ resolve to authorise industrial action,” Mr Quessy said.

Independent Education Union organisers Les Porter and David Towson said members in 31 schools would stop work for half a day on Thursday, July 17.

Members will be bussed from Campbeltown and Nowra to join colleagues at a central Wollongong location where speakers will include IEU general secretary John Quessy. At the event members will also sign a petition.

“The petition will call on the director of the Catholic Education Office to intervene in the dispute with the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations on behalf of members employed in the Diocese of Wollongong,” Mr Porter said.

“It is hoped that this intervention will force the employer to negotiate around current salaries and conditions rather than those contained in their draconian proposal.”

Organiser David Towson said the conditions contained in the employer proposal were “so far below those we have struggled for over many decades that, to use that as a starting point would be irresponsible, insulting and would inevitably have a detrimental impact on our children’s education.”

The stop work event will finish by 10.30am, giving members time to return to schools by midday.

Tony Farley, executive director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER), said industrial action in response to the new draft enterprise agreement was premature and creates unnecessary anxiety.

“This is essentially a strike about ideas. The new draft agreement is an attempt to think differently about the way that staff in Catholic schools work and how they are rewarded for the work that they do,” Mr Farley said.

“An old 70s-style industrial campaign is unhelpful and counter-productive as we continue our discussions with the union about change and innovation in our schools.

“We have made it clear to representatives from the IEU that everything presented is on the table for discussion. Industrial action is normally taken as a last resort when negotiations have been exhausted. This is certainly not the case.”


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