Queensland Catholic school employers resort to ‘take it or leave it’ threats
Queensland Catholic school employers have launched an unprecedented attack, threatening to withhold backpay and lockout staff should union members refuse to accept their latest bargaining offer or continue with their lawful protected action.
The ‘take it or leave it’ offer is more about intimidation and threats than dialogue and a negotiated outcome.
The employers’ threatening behaviour is particularly shocking in a school environment where bullying and threats are not only not condoned but explicitly prohibited.
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said members’ continued campaign actions would be critical in responding to the employers’ attack and in securing meaningful intervention on work intensification and wage parity with the public sector.
“Thousands of members have applied the work bans and taken a 30-minute stop work this week; the solidarity action was strong and Chapters endorsed continued and escalating action, as appropriate, in support of our employee claims,” Mr Burke said.
Mr Burke said further advice will be provided in the new week regarding the ongoing status of the bans in light of the employer threats to suspend full-day wage payments should the bans stay in place from Thursday, 28 November.
“Employers are refusing to recognise that their amended offer will not settle the dispute as it lacks meaningful intervention into workload/work intensification and a commitment to parity wage outcomes,” Mr Burke said.
“They have no strategy for negotiations to resolve the dispute and have given no consideration to alternative positions to reach an acceptable outcome.”
Time for both parties to explore possible outcomes
Mr Burke said negotiations are at a stage where both employer and employee representatives need to be prepared to explore possible positions and outcomes which might resolve the dispute.
“We have repeatedly advised the employers that we are prepared to explore possible outcomes beyond the current tabled positions,” Mr Burke said.
“We are prepared to meet at any time for as long as it takes to get a resolution.
“The employers for their part have confirmed the offer (unacceptable to employees) is the employers’ best offer.
“They have also stridently declined to participate in discussions which might explore possible alternative positions satisfactory to both parties.”
Employer response a disproportionate attack
Mr Burke said the employers’ unwillingness to explore possible alternate outcomes shows a lack of commitment to well understood principles of good faith bargaining.
“Employers have today issued an ‘offer’ which confirms their inadequate position and threatens employees with whole day ‘lock outs’ without pay if the work bans are maintained,” Mr Burke said.
“This is an unprecedented escalation by employers that is completely out of proportion with the partial work bans being undertaken by members such as banning a 20-minute duty or declining to attend a meeting of staff.
“The ‘offer’ again fails to commit to address the issue of workload/work intensification and fails to commit to parity wage outcomes with the public sector.
“Even worse, the employer proposal for a four-year agreement denies any opportunity for experienced teachers to access a further incremental step of $110,500 for at least 18 months, with a loss to experienced teachers of at least $2000.”
Mr Burke said the next SBU meeting did provide an opportunity for employing authorities to commit to a process of exploring further possible ways the matters in dispute can be resolved.
“Employing authorities have now inappropriately turned that meeting into a ‘take it or leave it’ meeting with no opportunity to pursue issues of workload/work intensification and wage parity. Nor would members in schools have a say on the employers’ inadequate offer.”
Potential Fair Work Commission intervention
Mr Burke said given employers have no willingness to participate in discussions to explore further possible outcomes at the SBU, employee representatives will take steps to seek the assistance of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) under the ‘New Approaches’ program.
“The employers have previously indicated that they did not see the need for FWC assistance as the negotiations were not yet ‘intractable’,” Mr Burke said.
“Now that the negotiations have reached an ‘intractable’ point, it’s time for a new approach.”
The New Approaches program of facilitated bargaining discussions previously helped to finalise a new agreement in 2016.
Participation in the program is voluntary and requires the consent of both parties.
IEUA-QNT Chapters will meet early in the new week to give urgent consideration to these matters.
Union members in our 206 authorised Chapters will maintain their protected industrial action.
Members’ action has been critical to recent employer concessions and will be critical to securing future success.
Read more at www.qieu.asn.au/onevoice