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Educators at Church schools harassed, union alleges

Court upholds request to stop industrial action

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Updated 6.30 with court order to stop industrial action - Teachers in church schools following directives by the Union of Professional Educators were being harassed, its president, Graham Sansone, has claimed.

He said union members had reported being told by their superiors the directives issued at the end of last month were not recognised by the Secretariat of Catholic Education, the Church schools’ central office.

The secretariat and the UPE have been at loggerheads over whether the UPE is empowered to issue such directives as it does not enjoy recognition as the union representing the majority of teachers and, thus, is not in a position to engage in collective bargaining. The UPE has repeatedly insisted that, as a registered union, it cannot be precluded from issuing such directives.

“Superiors within [Church] schools are harassing our members and stopping them from exercising their right of association by obeying directives issued by their union. The Secretariat of Catholic Education need not do anything except allow workers to exercise their rights without worrying of being harassed or fear disciplinary action,” Mr Sansone said in a statement.

Union is a registered organisation but does not enjoy recognition to conduct collective bargaining

The first set of directives was issued after union members complained about working conditions and work-life balance.

The union, which, in the meantime, issued further directives, declared it was still willing to talk although it considered the dispute with the Church Secretariat “serious”.

In line with the directives in force, learning support educators cannot be used to replace sick or unavailable educators working with students requiring one-to-one attention.

Teachers and LSEs were instructed not to attend individual education plan sessions unless Secretariat of Catholic Education representatives were present.

Teachers already doing 25 lessons were not to be given any extra duties, Mr Sansone said. They should not attend subject meetings or be involved in group duties and could not be assigned posts of special duties such as form teacher or assistant form teacher.

A Church spokesman said the Secretariat for Catholic Education insisted that though the union was a registered organisation, it did not enjoy recognition to conduct collective bargaining.

“The secretariat is considering taking action to ensure that students receive their rightful entitlement in full compliance with the agreed working conditions for education grades and the obligations emanating from the collective agreement,” the spokesman said.

The church secretariat said that following its request, a court had issued a warrant to stop the industrial action.

The secretariat complained that the union had not followed established procedure whereby disputes were first discussed with school heads and then referred to the secretariat if necessary. 

The Director of Employment Relations in calling a conciliation meeting had also appealed to the union to call of the directives, but the calls were ignored.

The secretariat said it had attended the conciliation meeting but no conclusion was reached. It was ready to hold more talks. 

 

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