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Canberra Catholic teachers flag industrial action over new code of behaviour provision

The union covering Catholic school teachers in Canberra have ramped up its fight with employers over a new enterprise agreement, accusing employers of trying to control teacher's lives outside the classroom and suggesting further industrial action. 

The latest stoush is over the insertion of a new clause into the agreement that would require teachers and other staff to abide by an "intrusive" code of behaviour in line with Catholic Church values inside and outside of work.

The Independent Education Union said the clause the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) employers proposed could see teachers disciplined for not adhering to Catholic values outside the classroom, including in their private relationships.

"The current clause in the Canberra agreement is that employees shall support the ethos and philosophy of Catholic education in the archdiocese," IEU assistant secretary Carol Matthews said.

She said while the union did not have a problem with employees having to support the ethos and philosophy of their employer, the new clause went too far.

"But the change is that the employers are now saying that any employee, whether it's a teacher or a gardener, must avoid any public or overt behaviour in or out of the workplace, by action or by lifestyle, which is contrary to the mission, teaching and values of the Catholic Church," she said.


The union says this could, for example, leave those in homosexual relationships out in the cold.

"Schools are seeking to have the right to have very intrusive [control over] teachers and support staff's lifestyles," Ms Matthews said.

She said on Tuesday the union could threaten industrial action.

"If the issues can't be resolved, I would see no option other than industrial action including in the ACT," she said.

CCER has said it was surprised by the union's statements, considering the union had also put forward a code of clause of their own to the CCER weeks ago referencing church values.

"It's very curious given that the union actually provided us with a proposed ethos provision some weeks ago," CCER executive director Tony Farley said.

He said the ethos or code of conduct clause proposed by the union for the new agreement even referenced adhering to church values.

"It surprises us that they seek to go out and make an issue of it, it's quite extraordinary. To be precise, [the clause the union proposed said] 'employees are required to be supportive of the mission, teaching and values of the Catholic Churches work in schools'," he said.

Mr Farley confirmed that the code of conduct clause was new to teachers enterprise agreements.

"There were different types of provisions but not one of this kind," he said.

Negotiations over the new deal between NSW and ACT Catholic school teachers has dragged on since April last year, and led to industrial action and stopwork meetings in Canberra and Goulburn in July, August and November.

Ms Matthews confirmed the wage issue was still not settled.

Mr Farley said the agreement had been hard to nut out considering the CCER were trying to pull together seven separate enterprise agreement into a single deal.