It’s been 14 long months coming but the Union has now reached agreement with Catholic employers on an Enterprise Agreement for teachers and general staff that it can confidently recommend to members.
A consolidated version of the 250 plus page document has been agreed by diocesan directors and it will shortly be circulated to employees for consideration prior to a ballot hopefully in the first weeks of Term 2.
The Industrial Instrument that the IEU will recommend bears no relation to that initially proposed by Catholic employers in April last. Those core conditions stripped out of their original proposal have been replaced and will be retained. Fundamental conditions like promotions positions, uninterrupted lunch breaks for teachers and paid rest breaks for support staff as well as those entitlements reflected in various Work Practice Agreements are enshrined in the proposed EA.
Negotiations in the past 14 months have been difficult and protracted but members should not underestimate that it has been their resolve, determination and willingness to take action that has secured the success, which this proposal represents.
What we will support is a good agreement. Although it delivers only meagre pay increases it retains, and in places, strengthens conditions. For the first time professional development that is a requirement of the employer must be offered during designated school hours. Support for teachers working towards accreditation at proficient level (and their mentors) is guaranteed and there are other protections built in.
Support staff (now described as General Employees in recognition of the wide variety of classifications covered) also have previous conditions retained and there will now exist an enforceable entitlement for the appointment of senior clerical staff.
The proposed EA brings almost all school employees over 11 dioceses under a single agreement for the first time and there are changes to a number of core provisions. Teachers will transition from an incremental classification scale to one which reflects levels of accreditation; Graduate (2 steps), Proficient (5 steps) and for those who seek higher levels of accreditation the classification of Highly Accomplished Teacher.
A number of general staff will translocate to new classifications with a compressed pay scale allowing for faster progression and higher pay. The existing arrangements for clerical, administrative and school assistants are retained.
The most significant change is to the accumulation and use of various forms of leave, notably sick and carers leave. For teachers the annual allocation will reduce from 25 to 15 days per year (from 2016) and leave will be progressively accrued. To offset this a range of compensation measures will be introduced. The current cap (previous six years of unused leave to a maximum of 150 days) will be abolished, an additional 15 days leave (pro rata for part-time) will be credited once only in 2016, evidence requirements are significantly relaxed and one day of “Special Leave” for family/community events will be available. Leave for occasions like family weddings, graduations will be more easily accessible.
The quantum of leave for general staff will not change however any staff with less than 15 days of accumulated leave will be credited additional leave to bring them up to 15 days once only in 2016 (pro-rata for part-time) The relaxed evidence requirements and access to 'Special Leave' applies to these classes of employees also.
All staff will now have access to their full leave accumulation for their own illness or to care for family or household members. This is potentially a significant benefit for many members and removes the previous restrictions.
Unfortunately the above leave arrangements will not apply in the diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes as that employer has at the time of writing refused to accept an additional day of 'Special Leave' hence the Union has declined to allow changes to the status quo without the full suite of compensation measures. It is regrettable that members in the most isolated school communities have been refused access to the leave they are most likely to need.
A NewsExtra outlining the key features of the proposed agreement will arrive in schools shortly and the IEU website will provide a detailed analysis particularly of those aspects of salaries, wages and conditions which will change if the EA is endorsed by vote.
Union organisers will be visiting schools to explain the proposed EA and to answer member questions in coming weeks. In the meantime we are negotiating with employers to introduce the new rates of pay and make appropriate back payments prior to the vote and subsequent processing of the agreement through the Fair Work Commission.
We have the makings of an agreement with the capacity to be an excellent scaffold on which to built in future negotiations.
On behalf of the officers and Executive of the Union I thank and congratulate members on their patience and persistence through this long and trying period. Your resolve and perseverance has resulted in an Agreement that will enhance your conditions now and into the future.