The IEU has been in dispute with the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle concerning a proposed restructure of the Catholic Schools Office and other agencies in the Diocese.
Bishop Bill Wright announced in late May his intention to achieve greater unity and coordination between the different agencies of the Diocese, including for example the Chancery, the Catholic Schools Office (CSO), CatholicCare, parishes, the Catholic Development Fund etc. The Director of Schools Michael Slattery met with the Union in early June and provided an overview of the proposed changes and also met with the CSO staff. A number of senior CSO staff were advised their positions would be made redundant as a result of the restructure.
Failure to consult
In mid June the Union wrote to the Bishop seeking clarification concerning the impact of the proposed restructure on CSO staff, asking if the employer would change under the new structure and whether there would be redundancies, transfers or changes in conditions of employment of CSO staff. The Union also pointed out the legal obligation of the employer to consult on proposed changes of this sort.
Principal members of the Union in the Diocese raised questions about the impact on schools of the restructure and whether the cost of services would increase under the new model. Concerns were also expressed about the potential use of school funds to support non educational functions of the Diocese.
The Union was advised the Bishop was unavailable to answer our questions nor meet as he had gone to Rome.
As a consequence, the Union notified a dispute to the Fair Work Commission concerning the failure to consult.
CSO EA under threat
The Union was advised that the long anticipated vote on an Enterprise Agreement (EA) to apply to CSO staff would be deferred indefinitely until the restructure dispute was “resolved” and the “implications considered and understood”. CSO staff were concerned about the delay and authorised the Union to commence the steps to take protected industrial action.
The Bishop and his advisers finally met Union representatives on 4 July. Following that meeting the Bishop has confirmed that the CSO EA can now proceed to the vote, has agreed that there will be no further redundancies of CSO staff in 2017 and has agreed that the Bishop will comply with the consultation requirements in relation to future changes. The conference scheduled for the Fair Work Commission has been deferred to allow for further discussions between the Union and the Bishop and his advisers about the outstanding issues.
The Union, and in particular the staff of our Newcastle office, will continue to actively support our members during this stressful time.