Lumen Christi IEU members to stop work

Independent Education Union NSW/ACT members at a rally in Sydney on Wednesday, November 1. Photo: IEUNSWACT
Independent Education Union NSW/ACT members at a rally in Sydney on Wednesday, November 1. Photo: IEUNSWACT

Teachers and support staff at Lumen Christi Catholic College will strike on Thursday, November 2 as part of rolling stop work industrial action in schools across NSW and ACT.

Staff will join 1500 union members in leaving school in the morning before returning at 12.30pm.

Despite classes resuming in the afternoon, many students are expected not to attend school for the day.

The Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT branch argues the strike is a last resort as Catholic employers have failed to respond to the union’s attempts to negotiate for almost a year.

Branch secretary John Quessy said the enterprise agreement covering Catholic schools expired in December 2016 and that members were yet to receive the agreed pay rise of 2.5 per cent as they fought for their rights to arbitration.

“We’re not sure why they are singling out Catholic schools in NSW and the ACT,” Mr Quessy said.

“Without the right to arbitration, enterprise agreements are compromised.

“While we are loathe to take any action which disturbs students’ education, it’s crucial that employers cannot stop the union seeking a hearing at the Fair Work Commission.”

​Mr Quessy said the right of the union to take disputes to arbitration by an independent umpire was a basic worker’s right being denied by employers.

At a rally in Sydney on Wednesday, he said the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn had sent an email to schools threatening executive members who had voted for protected action.

The letter, viewed by Fairfax Media, states: “It is expected that all principals and their executive teams will be on duty during the industrial action.” It does not threaten executives.

Archdiocese Catholic Education director Ross Fox said it was disappointing that the union had chosen to delay a successful resolution to negotiations.

“I note that the results of the ballot about the protected industrial action resulted in the majority of schools in NSW and the ACT not taking industrial action,” Mr Fox said.

“Only 20 of 56 schools in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn will be affected (on Thursday).

“I sincerely thank teachers and staff who chose not to take this unnecessary step.”

He said some statements made by the union leadership had been misleading.

“The disputes resolution clause – the only outstanding item – has been in place and working for seven years,” Mr Fox said.

“The same clause has been endorsed by the IEU in agreements with 450 independent schools in NSW and the ACT. Why a process that has worked in other agreements is now not acceptable for Catholic schools is unclear.”

Lumen Christi Catholic College was approached for comment.