Catholic Schools Agreement settled but beginning of the road to engagement

Catholic Systemic School Employers in NSW and the ACT have reached settlement with the union on a new Enterprise Agreement for over 23, 000 Catholic school staff.

In a joint statement from the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations and the Independent Education Union, the announcement signals the end of a lengthy negotiation over 12 months that has seen industrial action take place.

The new proposal brings together eight different industrial instruments into one and will introduce a number of changes including a new structure for Teachers that aligns to national teaching standards and a new classification structure for General Staff. 

The proposed agreement was introduced by employers in 2014 to address a number of issues impacting education today, such as changing student needs, new approaches to teaching and learning and the impact of technology.

Tony Farley, Executive Director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations said:  “While the terms of the new agreement are important, the most significant lesson for Catholic employers is not about salary or conditions but the much bigger issue of staff engagement.”

“Rather than being a starting point for discussing change, an industrial negotiation needs to be the end-point of an ongoing conversation that occurs at the workplace.”

He continued: ”For Catholic Schools in NSW and the ACT, the end of enterprise bargaining negotiations is the beginning of an engagement process that will be continuous, evolving and focussed on teaching and learning.”

The Agreement will be put to staff for a vote in Term 3 and must be approved by the Fair Work Commission before coming into effect.

KEY CHANGES IN THE PROPOSED AGREEMENT

The proposed agreement covers Teachers and General Employees (support and operational staff) who work in primary and secondary Catholic Systemic schools in NSW and the ACT. It consolidates 8 separate industrial instruments into a single agreement that (as far as possible) standardises industrial practices and conditions of employment across 11 separate Catholic Systemic School Employers.

Pay increases
As agreed in the NSW public sector, a 2.27% pay increase has been provided to Teachers and backdated to first full pay period on or after1 January 2015. A 2.5% increase will be provided from first full pay period on or after 1 January 2016.

For Teachers working in the ACT, the following pay increases will be provided to Teachers:

-       1.5% from first full pay period on or after 1 October 2014
-       1.5% from first full pay period on or after 1 April 2015
-       1.5% from first full pay period on or after 1 October 2015
-       1.5% from first full pay period on or after 1 April 2016
-       1.5% from first full pay period on or after 1 October 2016

From 2016 General Employees will receive wage increases at the same time as teachers – from 1 January each year. Over the first year of this agreement, general employees will receive two increases within six months – the 2015 wage increase of 2.27% at the ordinary time (first full pay period on or after 1 July) as well as the increase of 2.5% in January 2016.

Catholic Ethos
For the first time, the agreement contains a statement which outlines the expectations that all staff support the teachings and values of the Catholic Church in schools. This statement reflects what currently exists in contracts, policies and letters of appointment.

A new classification structure for Teachers
A new standards-based classification structure for teachers will commence on 1 January 2016, providing recognition and reward for Teachers as they progress through their career and are accredited against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST).  Transitional arrangements will ensure that no teacher will be worse off under the new structure.

The agreement also promotes quality teaching and improved learning outcomes by outlining support for graduate teachers in achieving their accreditation through the provision of orientation, induction, mentoring and classroom release.

Fair pay and conditions for general employees
The Agreement brings together all support, operational, maintenance and outdoor staff under one General Employee classification structure that better reflects the duties and skills required of employees. In combining a range of industrial instruments into one, where possible, conditions for employees have been standardised to ensure equitable provisions.

Personal/carer’s leave
New personal/carer’s leave (P/C) provisions for teachers (sick leave) have been introduced which are comparable to those provided in the public sector. The proposal provides for 15 days a year which would accrue progressively on an uncapped basis – creating a benefit for long serving teachers who may require more leave later in their careers. Additionally, new teachers will receive a one-off upfront allocation of 15 days P/C leave.

As part of the overall package, the following changes to leave are also included:
- New provisions relating to access of leave for unexpected emergencies/domestic violence.
- An additional day of special leave for scheduled family commitments.
- An week of paid leave for the non-primary caregiver upon the birth or adoption of a child.
- Changes to maternity leave provisions to allow for 14 weeks of paid leave to be accessed by the primary caregiver – mother or father.
- Access to a range of additional leave options for General Employees including: community service leave, exam study leave, military reserve leave, unpaid leave to work in an overseas volunteer program.

Long Service Leave
Employees will now be able to cash out a portion of their long service leave after 10 years of service.