Catholic teachers strike in Maitland-Newcastle diocese

Catholic school teachers across the Maitland-Newcastle diocese are taking industrial action for the second time this year on Monday, December 4, from 8.30am to 12.30pm.

Students at St Joseph’s Primary School Taree and St Clare’s High School Taree will receive minimal supervision for students in the morning, with normal timetables resuming at 12.30pm.

Holy Name Primary School in Forster are electing to strike on Tuesday, December 5 instead of the Monday, and they say they will provide adequate supervision for students in the morning while stop work action is taking place.

St Joseph’s Primary Schools in Wingham, Gloucester and Bulahdelah will not be taking any stop work action and school will continue as usual.

The teachers will be among thousands of Catholic school teachers and support staff across NSW and the ACT who are stopping work in the next round of industrial action to protest what the Independent Education Union (IEU) is calling “Catholic employers’ stubborn refusal to strike a reasonable bargain”.

IEU secretary John Quessy said members were at “boiling point” after employers took the “unprecedented” action of putting an enterprise agreement to the vote without gaining union endorsement. The employers’ vote is due to begin on Tuesday, 5 December.

The union maintains the dispute is not about pay. It says a 2.5 per cent pay rise was settled nearly a year ago, but has yet to be paid. It claims the dispute is about Catholic employers vetoing the right of the union to access the Fair Work Commission for arbitration. It also says details of the enterprise agreement also remain unresolved.

Michael Slattery, director of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese Catholic Schools Office (CSO), says he is disappointed the IEU is calling on its members in Diocesan schools to stop work on Monday.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: The Catholic Schools Office is keen to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.

Mr Michael Slattery

“I’ve said it before and I will say it again: The Catholic Schools Office is keen to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” Mr Slattery said.

“If the majority of staff across the 11 dioceses who vote, vote yes to support the Agreement, they will receive their 2.5 per cent pay increase for 2017 backdated to January 1, 2017 before Christmas. In addition, very soon afterwards they will also receive - on time - a further 2.5 per cent increase from the first full pay period on or after January1, 2018,” Mr Slattery said.

Mr Slattery reiterated his position on the current process for resolving disputes.

“I am on record as expressing my disappointment that the IEU feels that the current process for resolving disputes - which is in the existing Enterprise Agreement - needs to be changed.

“I believe there is no need to change the existing dispute resolution process because over the last seven years it has successfully resolved every dispute that’s been notified; it is the same clause the IEU recently endorsed for 450 private schools; and it is consistent with the Fair Work Act,” Mr Slattery said.