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Catholic education staff say action will protect the next generation

Catholic staff take strike

Seeking change: Catholic teachers have claimed a discrepancy between the expected workload and related wages and took action for the eighth time with permission from the Independent Education Union of Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory Branch.

CATHOLIC education staff member Ian Hughes is worried the next generation of the sector’s educators will not last five years under the present workload and wages.

Mr Hughes is a full-time audiovisual technician for Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne, and one of thousands of teachers who are taking a full-day stoppage today against working conditions in Catholic schools.

Mr Hughes has represented hundreds of “fed up” Catholic teachers and support officers at bargaining meetings between Queensland Catholic Education Commission and the state’s union for teachers for the last 12 months.

He said Catholic educators and support staff took on the full-day stoppage to protect the next generation of education staff for fear the profession would not cover the cost of living in Queensland.

“We’ve reached the point in the stand where they’re scared of what Catholic teaching and the profession will look like for future generations,” Mr Hughes said.

“The workload is huge and young teachers struggle with that initially.

“Five years down the track, they are giving up.

“If we stop now and don’t do what I’m doing, it will be worse for teachers in the future.”

Catholic teachers have claimed a discrepancy between the expected workload and related wages and took action for the eighth time with permission from the Independent Education Union of Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory Branch.

Mr Hughes said workload expectations had not been negotiated for more than 20 years.

Staff working part-time in support roles in administration, reception, finance, technical support, information technology, and sporting programs also suffer.

“Most support officers are not full-time, and work in school term times at 40 weeks a year,” Mr Hughes said.

“They are on a lower-tier pay scale, with reduced holiday pay.

“Why are they penalised for not having a full-time job?”

He said teachers and support staff were working weekends, stayed back late in schools, and during lunches “abandoning staff rooms”.

“Time expectancy hasn’t changed but teachers are doing their jobs outside of time,” he said.

“We are being taken away from family life.”

But he said staff in most Catholic schools across Queensland “were frustrated” with the lack of responses from employers.

 “Staff are fed up,” Mr Hughes said.

While employers have offered a 2.5 per cent pay increase to match Queensland state school salaries, Mr Hughes said staff in the Catholic sector should not be compared to education department teachers.

“We don’t see the parallel with the Queensland state system,” he said.

Instead, Catholic teachers want similar wages and structures to staff in New South Wales, who Mr Hughes called “equivalent counterparts” with similar roles, qualifications and time expectancies.

But Queensland’s peak body for the state’s 300 Catholic schools, QCEC, said wage comparisons with other states were “irrelevant”.

“Direct comparisons do not accurately reflect the differing work conditions in Queensland and New South Wales,” executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry Perry said. 

“This bargaining process is about what is happening in Queensland, not other places.

“This is not a debate about the value of staff. 

“Our staff are outstanding – they provide exceptional service. 

“But we are operating within a Queensland marketplace and this offer is fair”.

QCEC executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said 75 per cent of Catholic school staff, comprising 10,700 teachers and 18,900 overall staff, did not vote for industrial action.

“And that matches the anecdotal evidence we have that the majority of staff are keen to resolve the bargaining process in a reasonable and considered way,” Dr Perry said.

By Emilie Ng

Catholic Church Insurance

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