ACT News

Canberra Catholic school teachers strike over pay deal

A union is warning of more industrial action after Canberra Catholic school teachers and support staff stopped work for three hours on Tuesday protesting over pay negotiations.

Strike action: Assistant Secretary of the Independent Education Union Carol Matthews.
Strike action: Assistant Secretary of the Independent Education Union Carol Matthews. Photo: Jay Cronan

The Independent Education Union says the new proposed agreement would deregulate conditions for Catholic school teachers by removing caps for class sizes, abolishing promotion positions and removing the lunch break.

The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn's Canberra schools include St Francis Xavier College, Merici and St Mary Mackillop College as well as Catholic schools in Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Cooma, Gundagai, Young, and West Wyalong. The strike action affected over 500 teachers and support staff from 40 schools across the ACT and NSW dioceses.

Catholic School teachers attend a union meeting at the Italo-Australian Club
Catholic School teachers attend a union meeting at the Italo-Australian Club Photo: Jay Cronan

Staff spent three hours rallying at the Catholic Education Office on Tuesday morning to protest.  Students were under supervision until the teachers returned.

The attendees were dressed in a sea of red and chanting against the proposed changes to the agreement.

Assistant Secretary of the Independent Education Union in NSW and the ACT, Carol Matthews, has been involved in the negotiations with the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations.

"The union is extremely concerned that it would not only make life more difficult for teachers but impact on the learning environment of students and the existing caps on class sizes are not mandated by the government," Ms Matthews said.

Ms Matthews said the new agreement for support staff would introduce significant reduction in rates of pay, although existing staff would be quarantined if the proposed changes were implemented.

"There is still clearly no pay proposal for teachers in the ACT and if those matters cannot be resolved within the next few weeks certainly the union will need to consider further industrial action," she said.

Union organiser Lyn Caton said the Catholic Education Office wanted to "modernise the agreement and my argument to that would be that we've negotiated these agreements over 30 years and you're taking us back to conditions from back then".

The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn's Catholic Education Office director, Moira Najdecki, said on Monday the strike was premature and unhelpful to ongoing negotiations.

"While we support the right of staff to take industrial action, to do so now is premature and does not do justice to the consultation process that's taking place," she said.

"We're talking with and listening to staff in a number of ways and we're confident we will reach an agreement that staff will support."