Secure equitable and sustainable funding.
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Industrial relations in Catholic education in Australia today operates in a complex legal and social environment. Education is highly labour intensive, and in the Archdiocese of Melbourne 327 schools and the Catholic Education Office Melbourne (CEOM) employ about 16,700 staff, most of whom are covered by an industrial instrument specifying wages and conditions of service. The Independent Education Union (IEU) is the main union covering staff but there are a growing number of employees who elect to obtain representation by members of the legal profession.
Apart from the financial risks involved in industrial relations, the need to continue harmonious working relationships with staff to achieve the Church’s mission involves complex managerial issues in today’s environment. A decentralised approach to employment, where the employers are parish priests, necessitates coordination while allowing for local flexibility and decision making.
The CEOM, through its Industrial Relations (IR) Unit, continued to provide an industrial relations service to Catholic schools across Victoria, funded under a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV). In 2012 it provided advice and advocacy on industrial relations, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), WorkCover and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
The CEOM received funding of approximately $130,000 from the WorkCover claims agent, Gallagher Bassett, to assist in the employment of OHS officers with a view to improving OHS in schools and Catholic education offices. The CEOM also provided OHS services to parishes in the Archdiocese under a SLA with the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
In May 2012 enterprise bargaining commenced with the Independent Education Union of Australia Victoria Tasmania (IEU) for a new enterprise agreement for staff in Catholic schools. The IR Unit also continued a number of significant projects to prepare for the enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The IR Unit provided a consultancy service to employers, principals and Catholic education staff which dealt with almost 3,000 requests for advice on issues that ranged from Award entitlements to dismissal cases. The IR Unit saw a significant number of individual school's on issues involving due process, termination of employment, and adverse action. Disputes were settled or resolved without involvement by tribunals.
Advocacy and legal representation
In 2012 the IR Unit provided assistance to schools through advocacy and legal representation in 14 cases before the Federal Court, the Federal Magistrates Court, and Fair Work Australia. In some cases legal representation by barristers was funded by the CECV to defend employers against unfair dismissal claims, adverse action claims and disputes before the tribunal.
After more than 26 years with Catholic education, Mr Norm Howett retired in August 2012. As Manager of the Industrial Relations Unit, Mr Howett was highly regarded for his industrial relations knowledge and the quality of his advice.
Emmanuel JakwotYear 12 StudentSt John's Regional College, Dandenong
I came to Melbourne from Sudan as a 10-year-old not knowing much about Australia, its people, its culture or its sports. I have been at St John’s for the past six years and it has been a massive journey.
St John’s has given me so much – encouragement from the teachers and peer support from the other students. The school has given me life skills that will help me long after I have finished my VCE and left the school. It’s been a great experience because the environment here is so different to Sudan.
The education and the faith the school provides has helped me to grow as a person and has assisted my learning across a range of areas. Everyone has ups and downs and makes mistakes. The way to move forward is to learn from your mistakes.
I had a sports teacher in Year 9 who was keen to get me to play Aussie Rules. I was playing basketball and soccer at the time and he kept urging me to take on the local sport. He said many good basketballers go on to be successful football players. It’s true to say I fell in love with footy and haven’t looked back. I’m training with the Southern Stingrays and wouldn’t mind a professional career in football. I’m doing my VCE and I would like a good result and a good career. I still haven’t decided what I want to do but we are constantly told that young people today will have numerous jobs over their lifetime.
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