Lutheran employers fail to consult on school closure
Members and students at Stephens Lutheran College in Gladstone face uncertainty after the recent announcement by Lutheran employers that the school will close at the end of the year.
The announcement came with no warning or consultation to employees or their industrial representatives and was announced by Lutheran Education Queensland (LEQ) at a joint meeting of staff and students at the college last week.
A reduction in enrolments and the tough economic environment facing the region were cited as the reason behind the closure.
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the shameful manner in which these staff were told they were soon no longer to have a job, with no consultation to them or their representatives, highlights just how careless employers in this sector can be when it comes to managing such issues,” Mr Burke said.
“The failure of LEQ to notify or consult with our union prior to the announcement meant their action was a direct breach of the collective bargaining agreement which requires employees and their representatives to be consulted on any planned closure of the school,” Mr Burke said.
“We were not notified of the decision, nor were we afforded an opportunity to discuss the decision with our members,” he said.
“Upon hearing news of the announcement, our union immediately sought the assistance of the Fair Work Commission to ensure that members at the college are represented and assisted throughout this difficult time.
Mr Burke said urgent meetings have subsequently been held with LEQ representatives to discuss the closure and seek direct advice as to how they intend to support their staff members in transitioning into alternate employment at the conclusion of the school year.
“In particular our union has sought commitments from LEQ to support all staff in re-training, relocation expenses, personal and financial counselling services or other provisions to assist staff,” Mr Burke said.
“Given the magnitude of closing a school and the impact on the personal lives of employees and their families, LEQ must go beyond the simple redundancy provisions of the agreement.
“Our union will exhaust all legal and industrial processes to ensure that the rights and entitlements of members from the school are secured; sadly however, this terrible situation only reinforces the importance of their membership,” he said. Burke said further meetings with LEQ were scheduled for next week and members from the college would continue to be assisted through this difficult process.