ACT News

Industrial action to continue in ACT Catholic schools as negotiations stall

Teachers in as many as 36 Catholic schools in the ACT and Goulburn will continue to launch industrial action in coming weeks with negotiations over a new enterprise agreement expected to continue into 2015.

Negotiations aimed at bringing all teachers and support staff under the one agreement began in April, after the existing staff agreement ran out at the end of last year.

Independent Education Union NSW/ACT general secretary John Quessy has called on teachers in Canberra and Goulburn to attend stop-work meetings on November 17 to endorse further action and receive a progress report.

But Mr Quessy said the union had "little to report back on as we haven't received a proposal" and described the drawn-out process as "frustrating" with an agreement unlikely to be signed until next year.

"This is clearly just a wear them down campaign and our members aren't going to be worn down," he said.

"Our members are getting very frustrated as they're busy people at a busy time of year who just want to get on with their jobs."

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Catholic Commission for Employment Relations executive director Tony Farley said the drawn-out negotiations were the result of "very complex" arrangements and were unlikely to be resolved this year.

"We're creating a single agreement out of numerous agreements and it takes a long time to work through the many issues that have been placed on the table," he said. 

"Realistically, given the time restraints we're working with and delays, we're probably not going to be in a position to get a proposed agreement out to staff for a vote this year." 

Mr Farley has called on the union to "stop misleading Catholic schools into believing their conditions are under threat".

"We think it's unfortunate the union continues to press for industrial action that will have no bearing on the outcome of our discussions," he said. 

"From the very beginning Catholic employers have told the union that everything they have proposed is negotiable – we've never said any of our proposals are take it or leave it".

The proposed stop-work meetings come after as many as 1000 teachers in the Canberra and Goulburn Diocese launched strike action in July and August protesting proposed changes to workloads, professional development provisions, and performance review arrangements.

Mr Quessy said Catholic school employers had indicated a willingness to abandon controversial elements of the agreement although there was "still a fair way to go on many of the issues between the parties".

"The union has still not received a revised pay offer for teachers in the ACT part of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn," he said.

"The CCER has also advised that the Archdiocese intends to match percentage increases in rates of pay in ACT government schools but would not match any improvements in conditions in those schools."

Mr Quessy said proposals to exclude early learning centre staff from the single agreement were "a deal breaker" for the union unless they would be better off on their own separate agreement.

"That's a deal breaker for us as that's just picking off the weak and the vulnerable as there's only a handful of them and they are not in a strong bargaining position," he said.

The IEU has previously called for a five per cent pay increase for teachers but Mr Quessy said he was aware some of their proposals were not cost neutral and the union would be open to negotiation with employers.

The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn's Catholic Education Office director, Moira Najdecki, said strike action taken by the union in August 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. 

Ms Najdecki said the CCER had offered "a new, contemporary agreement which presents a range of ideas about how schools can better support 21st century teaching and learning".

The industrial action does not include independent Catholic schools in the ACT such as St Edmunds College, Marist College Canberra and Daramalan College, which operate on their own agreements.