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Catholic teachers to strike over new pay structure

Date

Anna Patty

"This is just about deregulation": John Quessy.

"This is just about deregulation": John Quessy. Photo: Danielle Smith

Catholic school classrooms will be disrupted next week when teachers strike in protest against a planned new system which will for the first time pay teachers according to standards and not just years of service.

The Independent Education Union is strongly opposed to the proposed system, saying it is ill-formed and strips away existing entitlements and promotions from teachers who are performing extra duties, including the delivery of religious education.

A series of strikes will be staged around the state, including one in central Sydney on Tuesday and another in Parramatta on Wednesday, affecting up to 200 schools with disruptions to teaching. Parents have been advised to contact individual schools about the level of disruption they will experience.

The proposed new enterprise agreement for NSW Catholic schools would replace an existing 13-step incremental salary model with a system based on national standards set by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

Under the system, teachers would be paid as either a graduate, proficient, highly accomplished or lead teacher. Teachers in their final year of university would be classified as pre-graduate.

Tony Farley, the executive director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, said the standards-based system was being proposed in response to growing community, pupil, parent and teacher expectations.

"We think the standards are a good idea," he said.

"Under the old structure, you just move through over 13 years, regardless of where you are at. Whereas, the new structure allows for quicker progression, but it requires meeting particular standards".

New teachers would be $38,000 better off after nine years of service under the new system. And the commission said more teachers would be able to earn salaries in excess of $100,000.

But John Quessy, general secretary of the Independent Education Union, said tough barriers would be set for teachers trying to achieve salaries above $91,000. 

"They are asking for a lot more and they won’t pay for it," he said. "They want to do this on the cheap.

"Our members are extremely angry, insulted and feel disprespected by this process.

"We are supportive of teaching standards, but this proposal does not address them at all. This is just about deregulation." 

Mr Quessy said the commission proposal provided no detail on how all teachers would progress through the accreditation process.

He said teachers who were currently earning between $7000 and $21,000 in addition to their base pay for performing extra duties risked losing those entitlements under the new system.

"It removes all the existing positions teachers are doing now," he said.

Mr Quessy said the commission proposal was unlike a standards-based pay system introduced for independent schools almost 10 years ago. The system for independent schools did not remove existing entitlements and provided a more straightforward pathway to achieving salaries above $100,000.

Mr Farley said the commission was open to negotiation, but said: "We are going to have this in the end, but unfortunately the union is wedded to a 1970s adversarial process."

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