In early December this year over 25,000 Catholic school staff in the 11 Catholic Dioceses of New South Wales and ACT will be asked to vote on a new enterprise agreement.
NSW Diocesan Catholic school staff will be offered back pay of 2.5% to January of 2017 and two more wage increases of 2.5% from January 2018 and January 2019.
Apart from these increases, most of the new agreement will be the same as their current agreement with a few enhancements and updates added on.
Normally, the agreement would be settled by now and the whole process would have finished, but this time around the Independent Education Union (IEU) has had a different idea.
The IEU has decided that it wants to change the disputes resolution clause that has been in the Catholic schools agreement for the last seven years.
The IEU is concerned about a recent decision of the Fair Work Commission, but as far as Catholic employers are concerned they have no intention of changing the way they currently handle disputes.
The current disputes clause has resolved every dispute notified over the last seven years and Catholic employers want to stick with it because, quite simply, it works.
The IEU’s decision to call for industrial action on the disputes clause issue in Catholic schools is, unfortunately, inconsistent with its recent support for an enterprise agreement for 450 private schools in NSW and the ACT which has the same type of disputes clause Catholic schools have now.
The IEU’s position is particularly disappointing because it’s delaying nearly one year of 2.5% back pay for staff as well as delaying a further increase of 2.5% in January 2018 and 2.5% in January 2019.
When all is said and done, the last thing Catholic schools need is a dispute about a clause the union supports elsewhere and which is working perfectly well in over 500 Catholic schools across NSW.
What’s more, if there’s any problem with the disputes clause in the future Catholic employers are more than open to considering any concerns if or when they arise.
Catholic employers are confident that the majority of staff think the current enterprise agreement works well for them and that sticking with what they have is a good idea.
Voting yes to the agreement will not only guarantee staff a year’s back pay of 2.5% before Christmas it will also a guarantee another 2.5% from January 2018 – a 5% salary increase by the end of the year that’s way overdue.
When all is said and done, Catholic school staff will decide whether to accept the new agreement or not. What is certain is that their employers in all 11 Dioceses are keen to see a “yes” vote so that they get the chance to flow through these major pay increases before Christmas.