On 12 December, the Independent Education Union (IEU) announced that more than 88 percent of staff in New South Wales Catholic schools had voted no to an enterprise agreement (EA) proposed by the Catholic Commission of Employment Relations (CCER).
The determination of staff was reflected in the high number of returned ballots: more than 87 percent. The IEU and the CCER have been in EA negotiations for well over a year.
The key reason that the IEU encouraged members to vote no was that the CCER had refused to accept arbitration in the EA – so it could not be enforced in the Fair Work Commission. Any disputes would have to be resolved in the Federal Circuit Court, making them much more costly and time consuming.
IEU members have remained united and committed, and have run a strong campaign throughout the negotiations, including several stop-work meetings and rallies.
The year-long campaign has involved intense negotiations over a range of issues, including class sizes, non-school-hours meeting time per term and the face to face teaching time.
Although no agreement has been reached on several clauses relating to working conditions, the IEU announced that back pay for 2017 will be processed. (A pay rise of 2.5 percent initially had been agreed but had not been paid.)
As a result of the strong vote, the CCER has agreed to continue negotiations on outstanding issues.
With the new school year beginning, teachers and support staff will continue to pressure the CCER to withdraw its proposal to avoid arbitration and its attempts to further erode working conditions.