Catholic school staff strike for pay, conditions

Teachers taking action at the West Tamworth Leagues Club. Photo: Independent Education Union of Australia NSW / ACT Branch

Thousands of teachers and support staff in Catholic schools around New South Wales and the ACT went on strike for 24 hours on May 27 for better pay and conditions. Around 18,000 members of the Independent Education Union (IEU) struck and attended rallies and marches that day.

It was the first strike by Catholic school staff in NSW and the ACT since 2004 and follows recent strikes by public school teachers over similar workplace problems.

IEU NSW/ACT secretary Mark Northam told the Australian Council of Trade Union’s On the Job on May 30 that the action had been a success.

He said the lack of teachers in the school system was driving those that remained to breaking point. “There’s been a 30% drop in the number of students that are moving into teacher education. Therefore, the teacher supply pipeline has been enormously diminished.

“The current model underpinning how schools operate is a couple of generations old. The way that work is organised in schools needs updating and this union would like to be part of that fix up,” Northam said.

The IEU is campaigning for: a pay rise of 10–15% over two years; ensure support staff have pay parity with their public sector counterparts; more time for teaching and for a cut in paperwork; allow two more hours release from face-to-face teaching per week for planning; and to recruit more teachers.