Teaching is a challenging and rewarding job, but for the first time since 2004, union members in Catholic schools stopped work for a full day to attend rallies and marches.
In NSW and the ACT, it has become next to impossible for many teachers to keep operating under their current conditions, according to Independent Education Union NSW/ACT secretary Mark Northam.
Five actions needed for Catholic school staff
Meaningful pay rises for teachers: an increase of 10% to 15% over two years
A fair deal for support staff by providing them pay parity with their public sector counterparts
Let teachers teach and cut paperwork
Allow time to plan with two more hours release from face-to-face teaching per week
End staff shortages
“When you’re a primary school teacher and you’re standing in the doorway between two rooms, that’s not teaching and learning, that’s monitoring and supervision,” he said.
“We had a member the other day responsible for 66 students, which is turning back the clock. So whilst they take pride in keeping the schools operational, it takes an enormous impact and a great toll on their health and wellbeing.”
“I think they’re just feeling as though they’re not appreciated and that the government and Catholic employers are simply not understanding the situation,” Northam told On the Job.
Last Friday, IEU members took industrial action in NSW and the ACT in support of their demands for better pay and conditions. Around 18,000 teachers and support staff stopped work for the day to attend rallies and marches.
Mark Northam deemed the industrial action a great success and pointed out that 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,” he said.
“Whilst that problem used to exist west of the Great Dividing Range, it’s now through coastal New South Wales, through the metropolitan area, and in the ACT.”
The IEU represents 32,000 teachers and support staff across NSW and the ACT. With a budget due on June 21 from the Perrottet Government, the heat is on for the 2.5% cap on pay increases for teachers in the state – which has been in place since 2011 – to be lifted.
“We call on all 11 Catholic dioceses to make a realistic pay offer to teachers to meet our claim of a 10% to 15% increase over two years,” Northam said.
Northam emphasised that the industrial action taking by his members was about the future of education.
“Teachers and support staff are dedicated professionals who rarely take industrial action but uncompetitive salaries, unsustainable workloads and crippling staff shortages have pushed them beyond their limits.”
“I think that one of the key issues for our members as teachers and support staff is just that if you’re coming out of university with $100,000 HECS bill – and you look at the salary scales for that four or five year degree with comparable degrees – the top of the pay scale is just simply not attracting people into the profession,” he said.
“The other key issue is the reality that the time which is allocated to teachers on a weekly basis, when they’re not in front of a class has to be increased. The many demands upon teachers all demand time”.
“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.