NSW Catholic school employers using broken laws to prevent member protected action
Echoing similar moves by Queensland Catholic school employers during the most recent collective bargaining round, their counterparts in NSW and the ACT are now fighting their employees’ ability to take rightful protected action.
IEU NSW/ACT members are seeking to take protected action due to the employers’ refusal to commit to including a provision for compulsory arbitration in the collective bargaining negotiations now underway.
Utilising the current, broken Australian industrial laws to their full advantage, NSW Catholic school employers have created a series of legal roadblocks for IEU NSW/ACT members in their goal to be granted permission to strike by the Fair Work Commission.
IEU NSW/ACT Branch Secretary John Quessy said members should have the right to have grievances heard by the industrial umpire.
“The Catholic dioceses’ position is strange considering thousands of staff employed in hospitals and aged care facilities run by Catholic employers all over NSW and the ACT have the right to arbitration through the Fair Work Commission. Yet teachers and support staff in Catholic schools are being denied this right,” Quessy said.
“Why would Catholic employers want to afford their staff in the health care sector greater rights than their teachers and support staff in schools?”
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said IEU NSW/ACT Catholic school members had the full support of IEUA-QNT members in their campaign to take protected action and have their real concerns about working condition heard and responded to by their employer.
“The current actions of Catholic school employers in NSW are particularly shameful and are yet another example that the federal industrial laws we operate under are broken.
“These need not just mending but a substantial makeover to restore a proper balance to the rights of workers.
“When the Fair Work Act (the Act) was put in place in 2009, Australian workers were promised that collective bargaining would provide workers (and employers) with a mechanism to negotiate quality collective agreements in the interests of workers and the employer.
“Nearly ten years later, the promise of meaningful collective bargaining negotiations has dissipated in the face of employers finding provisions in the legislation to frustrate, delay, ignore and generally narrow the agenda in bargaining to what they ‘might be prepared to consider’.
“The essential problem with the Act is that employers can find plenty of succor for their disregard of meaningful bargaining.
“An employer can prevaricate and procrastinate on bargaining at all and provisions in the Act to ‘force’ bargaining are open to employer intimidation.
“Protected Action ballots are cumbersome, sharply time bound and rely on the outdated voting method using Australia Post.
“Even if a Protected Action ballot is carried, as we are seeing in NSW, employers have shown a remarkable capacity to expend considerable legal fees to question and frustrate the conduct of that action.
“Clearly the rules need to be changed, and we will continue to support and work with our colleague members in IEU Branches across the country to defend the working rights of members and their ability to take protected action where necessary,” Mr Burke said.