Catholic schools must bargain while waiting Minister’s decision: FWA

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Catholic schools must bargain while waiting Minister’s decision: FWA

Two SA Catholic school organisations have been ordered to bargain with the union over a new agreement, and have been told they cannot wait until the Minister decides whether they can bargain as one unit.

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Two SA Catholic school organisations have been ordered to bargain with the union over a new agreement, and have been told they cannot wait until the Minister decides whether they can bargain as one unit.
 
However, FWA has ordered a three week-delay before Notices of Representational Rights are issued in the hope that the matter of them bargaining as a single interest employer will be resolved quickly.
 
The Independent Education Union of Australia (IEU) sought bargaining orders against the Catholic Church Endowment Society and the Catholic Diocese of Port Pirie, which operate around 90 Catholic schools across the state.
 
May not be corporations
 
The rest are Order-run or College schools, which may or may not be corporations and, therefore, covered by the Fair Work Australia Act 2009. It is this complication that has delayed the decision about whether all the Catholic school operators in South Australia can bargain with the IEU as a single interest employer.
 
The two major operators of Catholic schools wanted to delay negotiating with the union until the matter was resolved. DEEWR advised that this issue would be addressed by the South Australian Government’s referral legislation, due to come into effect on 1 January 2010.
 
To get negotiations moving, the IEU decided to begin bargaining separate agreements with each school operator.
 
Sector-wide approach
 
Senior Deputy President Mathew O’Callaghan said that from the perspective of Catholic education employers, the advantages of a sector-wide approach in terms of consistency of salary and conditions, and the operation of pooled leave funding arrangements appear obvious and are likely to generate operational efficiencies.
 
However, he was not convinced that such an arrangement is necessarily the only way of achieving consistent conditions or that it is appropriate that negotiations not occur until the issue of the Ministerial Single Interest Determination is resolved.
 
No capacity to resolve issues
 
‘Such an approach appears to me to leave employees of both respondents without the capacity to resolve agreement related issues for a potentially undetermined time period,’ he said.
 
‘Additionally, it may well be that the IEU members in some areas of the Catholic Education sector, seek to reach agreements which are specific to their particular circumstances.’
 
SDP O’Callaghan said an agreement cannot be made until at least 21 days after the respondents have issued Notices of Representational Rights.
 
‘The desire of the IEU to reach an agreement as a matter of urgency is clear and understandable, but it is equally clear that the parties have the capacity to negotiate the commencement date for agreed wages and conditions if they wish to do so,’ he said.
 
Expeditious response
 
‘Further, given the potential for an expeditious response from DEEWR to the request for the Ministerial Declaration, it is possible that within a short time, the parties may yet find themselves in a position to determine a sector-wide agreement if they still wish to do so.’
 
‘In that instance, the time frame for the making of any such agreement would depend on when the last Notice of Representational Rights is issued.’
 
‘For these reasons I consider that it is appropriate that I delay the requirement that the respondents issue Notices of Representational Rights for a brief time in the hope that the Ministerial Declaration issue is clarified or that other options relative to agreement making can be fully considered.’
 
‘I consider that a three-week period is appropriate for this purpose. Within this time I anticipate that the potential for agreement will be fully explored through negotiations between the parties.’
 
 
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