Catholic school teachers and support staff continue strike action in Upper Hunter

HUNDREDS of school teachers and support staff across the Hunter will stop work next week for four hours in the latest round of industrial action to protest Catholic employers’ refusal to strike a reasonable bargain.

A series of regional rallies have been planned in a variety of locations, including several in Sydney, Canberra, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Albury, Bathurst, Lismore, Wollongong, Armidale, Newcastle and the Upper Hunter.

Educators from St Joseph’s High School (Aberdeen), St James’ Primary School (Muswellbrook), St Mary’s Primary School (Scone) and St Catherine’s Catholic College (Singleton) are expected to meet again at the Aberdeen Bowling Club, near Jefferson Park, on Monday, December 4, from 10am.

Staff from Merriwa and Denman schools will likely join forces, too.

They previously assembled at the same location, a month ago, to condemn the failure of their employers to resolve all the outstanding issues in bargaining for a new Enterprise Agreement (EA).

“The mood of members has lifted with more than 100 additional schools taking part in this second round of action following a series of a stop works in early November,” Independent Education Union secretary John Quessy said.

He added members were at “boiling point” after employers took the unprecedented action of putting an enterprise agreement to the vote without gaining union endorsement.

The employers’ vote is due to begin on Tuesday, December 5.

“This has never been done before in Australian history,” Mr Quessy said.

“Catholic employers are coming for our members’ rights and they will not tolerate that.

“We are urging a ‘no’ vote.

“It is clear they want absolute power over their employees and the members are standing firm against this.

“Our action is sending a clear message that we reject their enterprise agreement.”

This dispute is not about pay.

A 2.5 per cent pay rise was settled nearly a year ago, but has yet to be paid.

Rather the dispute is about Catholic employers vetoing the right of the union to access the Fair Work Commission for arbitration.

Details of the enterprise agreement also remain unresolved.

Mr Quessy said it was outrageous that employers were indicating staff needed to vote ‘yes’ on December 5 in order to get their pay rise.

“Our members will not be held to ransom by employers dangling a meagre pay rise as a carrot,” he added.

“Teachers and support staff want their conditions protected by their enterprise agreement and by the Fair Work Commission.

“They do not want and will not put up with employers’ bullying.

“The IEU calls on Catholic employers to stop their attacks on the rights of workers.”