Ho Ho Ho, Wollongong Catholic teachers to vote no to EA proposal

The spirit was far from festive on Monday when hundreds of Wollongong Catholic teachers and support staff started chanting Ho Ho Ho, We Vote No.

They did not march through the city’s streets and end up at the Diocese of Wollongong head office this time around, but they were united in voice that they would not sign off on an enterprise agreement not gazetted by their union.

The Independent Education Union members at the City Diggers Club in Wollongong also unanimously passed a motion to this effect.

The second strike action in the space of a month came after their  employers took the ‘’unprecedented action’’ of putting an enterprise agreement to the vote without gaining union endorsement.

I think they [employer] have been emboldened by the right leaning governments we have in Australia at the moment and they are feeling very tough because there is a lot of union bashing happening at the moment and unfortunately teachers are part of that,

Glenn Lowe

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris supported the IEU stance of encouraging its members to vote no to the enterprise agreement.

‘’You either strike a deal at the workplace or you don’t. How rude to do it behind your back. They are changing rules to suit themselves.’’

‘We just want fairness’

NOT HAPPY: Glenn Lowe, a teacher at St Josephs High School in Albion Park, encouraged fellow teachers to vote no to the enterprise agreement. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

NOT HAPPY: Glenn Lowe, a teacher at St Josephs High School in Albion Park, encouraged fellow teachers to vote no to the enterprise agreement. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

History looks like it may be repeating and Glenn Lowe doesn’t like it.

The high school teacher at St Josephs in Albion Park remembers the damage caused back in the 1980’s when Catholic teachers were made to look like pariahs for accepting a pay rise.

Now their employers are trying to get through an enterprise agreement which denies teachers and support staff the right to arbitration.

‘’What’s more it is an agreement we haven’t agreed upon,’’ Mr Lowe said.

‘’I'm actually here fighting for our rights, fighting for the future a bit as well.

‘’Our employer has done the wrong thing by us and they have tried to get things through our agreement which we don't agree with.

‘’I just want to do my job and get money for what I do and get a fair pay and get left to do what I do and what I’ve been trained to do and that's be a teacher.’’

The Catholic Commission for Employment Relations executive director Tony Farley told the Mercury the CCER ‘’can’t simply be held to ransom by a union that behaves in such a hypocritical way’’.

But the hundreds of Catholic teachers and support staff at City Diggers Club on Monday countered that it was them who were being treated like ‘’second class citizens’’ by their employers.

‘’I think they [employer]  have been emboldened by the right leaning governments we have in Australia at the moment and they are feeling very tough because there is a lot of union bashing happening at the moment and unfortunately teachers are part of that,’’ Mr Lowe said.

‘’The fact that they are playing dirty tactics regarding holding our back-pay up. Some people have been calling it a bonus, it is not a bonus, it's my pay.

‘’I believe that as part of the agreement we are trying to get through it needs to be an agreement we have gazetted by our union, this proposal isn't.

‘’That’s why I’m strongly encouraging people to vote no to the enterprise agreement.’’

The employers’ vote is set to begin on Tuesday and run until December 12.

Mr Farley said the disputes clause being opposed by the union has existed for the last seven years and resolved every dispute.

This point was opposed by Holy Spirit College teacher Mark Smith.

BROKEN SYSTEM: Mark Smith, a teacher at Holy Spirit College in Bellambi, said there was nothing ''fair'' about the enterprise agreement. Sylvia Liber

BROKEN SYSTEM: Mark Smith, a teacher at Holy Spirit College in Bellambi, said there was nothing ''fair'' about the enterprise agreement. Sylvia Liber

‘’Make no mistake, an EA without the right to arbitration is like mana from heaven for any employer,’’ Mr Smith said.

‘’I will never give up my right to have an independent neutral umpire.

‘’If we give up the right to arbitration, we give up the ability to keep up with our state school colleagues in all our working conditions. We don’t want more than anybody else, we just want fairness.’’