Teachers seeking better conditions strike and rally in two states

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Teachers from across Western Sydney will be stepping up their campaign for fair salaries and workloads at four pm tomorrow, Wednesday, 16 August, when they rally outside Education Minister Prue Car’s Londonderry office to call on the Minns Government to honour its agreement to tackle the teacher shortage.

There are currently 21 full-time teacher vacancies in the state electorate of Londonderry. A parliamentary question on notice in July revealed there are 1820 vacancies across New South Wales (NSW).

The Government struck and then reneged on a one-year agreement to lift wages to make beginning and experienced teachers in the state the nation’s best paid. It then backtracked in early August by insisting on an additional three-year clause, capping wage movements at 2.5 per cent.

In a media release published by the NSW Teachers Federation, this action was described as a “counterproductive measure” that “undermines and erodes the first year increase”.

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The rally will be addressed by NSW Teachers Federation acting President, Henry Rajendra, along with local teachers who are, say the Teachers Federation, “fed up with being overwhelmed and overworked”.

Queensland teachers lose pay over strike action

Today, in Queensland, teachers took their own dissatisfaction further with strike action.

As a result, in an Australian first, thousands of Queensland Catholic school employees in multiple schools are set to lose a full day’s pay for the strike action on Tuesday, 15 August.

Independent Education Union – Queensland and Northern Territory (IEU-QNT) Branch Secretary Terry Burke said that, in response to the lawful protected action being taken by employees, Queensland Catholic school employers had confirmed they would take a full day’s pay from the staff involved.

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“This will make them the first Catholic school employer in Australia to take such action,” Mr Burke said.

He described the moved as a “disproportionate and shameful move for the employer to take given the limited nature of the actions employees are undertaking”.

“Queensland Catholic employers have this afternoon said that if employees take the five-minute stop work, if they actually take an uninterrupted lunch break, if they don’t answer emails outside of work hours or if they simply use their full planning and correction time to prepare quality lessons for their students – then they will lose a full day’s pay.

“It’s an extraordinary response from any employer, let alone the Catholic Church, which, for over 150 years, has claimed to support workers’ rights and the right to take legal industrial action.

“The Catholic Church has much to be ashamed of – threatening to effectively ‘lockout’ teachers and school support staff who are taking action in support of their rights at work is another shameful act.

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“The Queensland Catholic Church will have the ignoble and shameful honour of being the first Catholic school employer in Australia to take such action against its employees,” Mr Burke said in a statement.

Thousands of employees across 34 Queensland Catholic schools took part in the protected industrial action.

Members of the Independent Education Union – Queensland and Northern Territory (IEU-QNT) stopped work  for five-minutes from 8:30-8:35am and then enacted a range of “work bans” throughout the day.  

The action took place at some of Queensland’s most prestigious Catholic schools, including All Hallows’  School, Lourdes Hill College, St Joseph’s Nudgee College, St Patrick’s College (Shorncliffe) and Marist College Ashgrove.

IEU-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said union members were taking protected industrial action in support of reaching an agreement in collective bargaining negotiations with Queensland Catholic school employers. 

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“Employers are behaving as if collective bargaining negotiations are over, despite this very clear message from their employees that there are key issues outstanding,” Mr Burke said. 

“Employers have said they will soon ballot their proposal to set wages and conditions in Queensland Catholic  schools for the next four years, but they have no ‘in-principle’ agreement with IEU-QNT members,” he said. 

Mr Burke said IEU-QNT members could not support a proposal that leaves key bargaining issues unaddressed. “Members are not convinced employers are addressing key issues in schools,” Mr Burke said. 

“They are taking the action as part of a campaign to address the workload crisis that is seeing teachers leave the  sector in droves. 

“IEU-QNT members also want respect shown to their school support staff by employers paying them  contemporary wages for the work they do,” he said. 

Mr Burke said under the work bans held today, IEU-QNT members would: 

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  • not perform any work unless they are wearing a campaign sticker; 
  • not attend staff meetings (except meetings regarding student welfare); 
  • ban any duties or activities during scheduled meal breaks;  
  • ban supervision or cover periods
  • ban playground or transport supervision
  • ban any duties to comply with employer requests for data collection
  • ban all communications outside of 8:30am  to 3:30pm. 

“IEU-QNT members are also authorised under the protected action to have discussions or make statements explaining why union members are taking action,” he said. 

Mr Burke said IEU-QNT members had shown enormous determination to take protected action in the face of  pressure from employers. 

“The behaviour of Queensland Catholic school employers during these negotiations can only be described as  intimidatory.

“They have refused to listen to employees’ concerns, discouraged union members’ protected action at every  opportunity and are now trying to ballot a proposal that IEU-QNT members do not support. 

“IEU-QNT members’ protected industrial action is about getting a better outcome for Catholic school staff,  students and communities. 

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“Our union urges employers to re-consider their approach to these negotiations and return to the bargaining  table with proposals to address employees’ outstanding concerns,” Mr Burke said. 

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live