Teachers have locked horns with the Catholic diocese over enterprise agreement negotiations.
Teachers have locked horns with the Catholic diocese over enterprise agreement negotiations. Toowoomba Chronicle

Teachers consider industrial action over contract stoush

A TEACHERS union is considering taking industrial action against the Catholic school system in a bid to settle enterprise agreement negotiations.

President of the North Coast sub branch of the Independent Education Union of Australia, Jeff Pratt said the next step would be to poll their member base in the coming weeks about the possibility of industrial action.

He said the action would not be the ideal but he said it may be necessary in order to fight for "an agreement that is just and fair”.

Union representatives yesterday presented a petition signed by disgruntled staff from the Lismore diocese, which runs from Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads, to director of the Catholic Schools Office Hamish Valentine.

One of the union's organisers, Sandra White said the 11 month negotiations took a turn in June when an interpretation of the Fair Work Act changed to state arbitration could only be pursued if all parties agreed.

The change led the union to request the addition of a clause to enable either party to seek conciliation and arbitration.

"We are asking for one sentence to clarify the industrial right of our members to enforce their agreement if it came to that,” Ms White said.

She said the clause has become a "big sticking point” in finalising the agreement.

But Mr Valentine said he doesn't "believe there is any reason to change the current clause because it works”.

"The IEU wants to change the current disputes clause despite the fact that it has been in place for seven years and has resolved every dispute notified and is consistent with the requirements of the act,” Mr Valentine said.

"There has never been a need to resort to arbitration over the last seven years all issues have been settled amicably.”

He said Catholic Commission Employment Relations, the bargaining body for the diocese, has asked the IEU to reconsider it's position on the disputed clause so that the agreement can be settled as soon as possible.

Mr Pratt, who is a teacher at Mount St Patricks College, Murwillumbah, emphasised the fight was not just for teachers but for their students.

"It's not about teachers grabbing at money or grabbing at this and that its about the kids and having quality teachers in front of them and having conditions that reflect the professionalism we show these kids,” Mr Pratt said.