STRIKE action appears increasingly likely in the region’s Catholic schools as staff protest a proposed enterprise agreement they say will impact the quality of students’ education.
Staff across about 570 schools in the state have been voting – both on-site and via post – in the past few weeks about the action they are prepared to take over an employer-proposed agreement their union says strips back basic conditions and does nothing to enhance learning outcomes.
While the ballots have not been officially declared by the Australian Electoral Commission – and many smaller
workplaces are still posting back their ballots, with a cut-off date of July 4 – union scrutineers say members have “categorically endorsed” rolling stoppages.
Independent Education Union (IEU) general secretary John Quessy said staff at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth had the opportunity to vote on-site during the week, with scrutineers saying members had “overwhelmingly endorsed” industrial action.
While it was still too early to say what action would eventually be taken, Mr Quessy said there was a lot of anger about the employer agreement, put forward by the state’s 11 Catholic dioceses back in October.
“Catholic staff do not intend to deregulate themselves to fit neatly into a corporate model which dissolves trust between the employer and IEU members,” he said.
“For employers to seek a wholesale departure from existing practices is unnecessary and offensive.
“Teachers feel devalued. The secret ballot process has provided members with an opportunity to voice their
dissent and send Catholic employers a clear message.
“Rolling stop work actions statewide will allow IEU members to vent their displeasure until the employer generated document is withdrawn.”
Mr Quessy emphasised it was not a fight about money, but rather about an attack on conditions that had the potential to jeopardise student learning and outcomes.
Asked what employers hoped to gain from the proposal, he said they may achieve some cost savings, but believed “it was largely a matter of wresting away control”.
“It’s a power struggle more than anything else,” he said.