Catholic school staff call for donation of lost pay to Fiji cyclone relief
Teachers and school support staff across Mackay are calling on their employers to donate withheld wages, from recent stop work action, to ongoing relief work by Caritas in Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Winston.
Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland and Northern Territory (IEUA-QNT) Branch Secretary Terry Burke said hundreds of members – teachers and support staff – recently took full day strike action on 1 March as part of their campaign for professional rates of pay and adequate time provisions, and in doing so lost a day’s pay.
“As per the industrial legislation, Catholic school employers withheld a day’s pay from the members who took the stop work action,” Mr Burke.
“This equates to thousands of dollars in unpaid wages in the Mackay region alone and members have made a direct request to Catholic employing authorities to ask if this money could be donated and put to good use in helping Fijians rebuild their lives following the devastating cyclone,” Mr Burke said.
Long-standing and respected Mackay teacher Neridah Kaddatz said members wanted to see their withheld wages from recent stop work action given to those in most need.
“For members in Mackay, a request to our employers to donate the withheld wages to Catholic charity Caritas for ongoing relief work in Fiji was the obvious choice,” Ms Kaddatz said.
“The people of Fiji are in desperate need of assistance. The substantial amount of withheld wages would make a significant contribution to the rebuilding efforts in Fiji and provide a major boost to the immediate humanitarian needs of the country – but our employers continue to reject our request,” she said.
Mr Burke said that so far Catholic employing authorities had refused the employee request, stating industrial legislation would not allow such a donation to be made.
“This is incorrect – while the legislation clearly states that the employers cannot pay their employees for the time they took stop work action, it does not say anything in regard to making payment to another body or organisation,” Mr Burke said.
“The employers are twisting the legislation to their benefit and in turn denying a request from employees which could provide real assistance and life-changing support to those in most need.
“It is shameful that the employers would continue to deny this employee request and instead keep the unpaid wages despite the fact that we know it was not business as usual for Catholic schools in Mackay on the day of the stop work action.
“The majority of schools ran limited supervision and requested parents to keep their children at home,” Mr Burke said.
Ms Kaddatz said members continued to call on their employers to have a change of heart.
“We ask our employers to respect the employee request to use our unpaid wages as a meaningful contribution to a humanitarian disaster in one of our closest neighbours,” Ms Kaddatz said.