Catholic teachers go on strike over enterprise agreement

Hands up: Tamworth's Catholic teachers banded together at Monday's strike to protest an enterprise bargaining agreement they believe has left them without access to the Fair Work Commission. Photo: Peter Hardin
Hands up: Tamworth's Catholic teachers banded together at Monday's strike to protest an enterprise bargaining agreement they believe has left them without access to the Fair Work Commission. Photo: Peter Hardin

The Catholic Commision for Employment Relations (CCER) have been accused of using “bribery, blackmail and guilt”, while the Dioceses have been compared to “Pontius Pilate” for turning their backs on Catholic school teachers at a rally on Monday.

Hundreds of  teachers all over NSW and the ACT observed a second day of strike, following the Catholic schools employment body's attempt to pass an enterprise agreement without the union's endorsement.

Fifty local teachers and support staff gathered at Wests Diggers for the four hour strike, organised by the Independent Education Union’s (IEU) James Jenkins.

“This is about access to the industrial umpire,” he said.

“Our employers are trying to veto access to the Fair Work Commission – staff and schools are quite unhappy about this – we think it is very reasonable to have access to this to help solve disputes.” 

Earlier in the year a Fair Work Commission decision changed the interpretation of the agreement's arbitration clause, saying that the wording suggests that, unless both parties agree, they will have no power to step in.

“Employers have refused to come to the table and negotiate this issue, they are largely taking away what has been a right since 2010,” Mr Jenkins said.

“This is really a dirty battle for power – employers want the right to be able to change conditions and largely leave staff unable to enforce those conditions – we won’t be able to take an issue to an independent umpire and have it arbitrated on.” 

Executive director of the CCER Tony Farley said the “Union is using a misleading scare campaign.” 

“The dispute resolution clause is the exact same one they have had for seven years, and the same one that the IEU approved, only a matter of months ago, for 450 private schools – it reeks of confusion or hypocrisy – or both.” 

Although Mr Jenkins hit back saying that “Catholic schools have had the right to arbitration since 2010, why would they give that up because private schools don’t have it – that would be a step backwards.” 

The agreement will be put to a vote on Tuesday.