SCHOOL teachers and administration staff in the Canberra/Goulburn Catholic Archdiocese will stop work for three hours today to campaign for better job conditions.
The local contingent join Catholic school teachers and staff from 38 schools across NSW and the ACT who are members of the NSW/ACT Independent Education Union (IEU). Stop work meetings have been held in Parramatta, Newcastle, Sydney and regional towns and cities across the state over the past three months. Even Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon managed to get on board, attending the stop work rally held in Parramatta in July.
Canberra / GoulburnArchdiocese staff will stop work from 8:30am-11:30am today to protest against proposals by the Catholic Education Office (CEO) to strip back conditions teachers have been fighting for over the last 15 years.
Through a new enterprise agreement, the CEO is proposing such regulations as no caps on class sizes, increasing face-to-face teaching time by two hours a week (which leads to a decrease in preparation time), a decrease in sick leave by 10 days per year and deregulation of teacher’s lunch break times.
The union also lobbied for a five per cent pay rise for all teaching and non-teaching staff, but the Catholic Education Office is only offering them a 2-2.5 per cent pay rise.
Trinity Catholic College union representative Roger Myers told the Post that once the inflation rate was taken into consideration, this increase would be negligible anyway.
The Australian Electoral Commission launched a ballot for IEU members from all 38 schools to voice their concerns in July.
Seventy percent (31 members) of the 44 Trinity Catholic College union members voted in the ballot, with 62pc (or 13 of the 21 members) from St Joseph’s Primary School and 58pc (or 11 of the 19 members) from St Peter and Paul’s Primary School also taking part in the ballot.
For non-teaching staff, measures such as the restructuring and classification of their positions will result in a $6,000- $17,000 per annum reduction in their salaries, and there is also a proposal to remove all promotion positions below the rank of principal.
IEU Canberra/Goulburn stopwork organiser Jackie Groom told the Post that teachers in catholic schools across the country had been campaigning hard for more than 15 years for better conditions, and to have all these conditions stripped away was a backward step.
“Currently at Trinity Catholic College, class sizes for practical subjects are usually capped at 25 students, ordinary classes capped at 30 students, and Year 11 and 12 classes also capped at 25 students,” Ms Groom said.
“The new measures would take away these caps and there would be a greater number of kids per class.”
Mr Myers said that the ramifications of these proposed measures would be detrimental not only for the school but also for St Peter/Pauls and St Joseph’s Primary Schools.
“Some if not all of these measures will affect both students and teachers alike and take us in a backward step,” he said.
“I mean we all expect better education than we did 20 years ago, just as we expect better health services than we did 20 years ago. Really, the pay increase of only 2.5 pc is miniscule, compared to the five percent that the union was negotiating for. For us to have to take a half day off or more just shows that we are serious about wanting to keep our job conditions secure.”
Mr Myers says that professional development time for teachers could also be affected, with most teachers currently doing it either during their own time, or as a requirement by the school. But in the proposed new enterprise agreement changes, they would be required to carry out these sessions either on weekends or in school holidays, which in the proposed agreement is known as ‘stand-down’ time.
“The Catholic Education Office enterprise agreement can’t be accepted until the Union votes to approve it anyway, and nobody is agreeing to it at the moment, hence the strike action,” Mr Myers said.
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