‘Teachers are being held to ransom’

A POLITICIAN on Brisbane's southside has penned an emotional letter to education bosses looking to slash the pay and superannuation of Sunnybank teachers.

Federal Member for Moreton Graham Perrett has appealed to the chairman of Carinity Education, an outreach of Queensland Baptists, on behalf of the teachers and support staff who work with the students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Carinity Education plans cuts to community standard working conditions for employees include the stripping of superannuation and redundancy provisions and long service leave.

Teachers will strike this afternoon.

Carinity Education has been contacted for comment.

Read Mr Perrett's letter in full below.

Member for Moreton Graham Perrett.
Member for Moreton Graham Perrett.

 

Un-Christian way to treat staff

Dear chairman,

I write as the Federal Member for Moreton regarding your Carinity Education school located at Sunnybank in my electorate.

I have known your school for almost two decades from my time as an organiser with the independent Education Union and now as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. For the record, I am currently an associate member of the union that has industrial coverage of your school.

I have always been impressed with the caring nature of the education that is provided to the young women at your school.

Teachers and support staff from Sunnybank’s Carinity Education Southside will go on strike this morning to protest their employer’s plan to cut working conditions and create a potential $8000 pay gap between their state and Catholic school counterparts. Photo: Kristy Muir
Teachers and support staff from Sunnybank’s Carinity Education Southside will go on strike this morning to protest their employer’s plan to cut working conditions and create a potential $8000 pay gap between their state and Catholic school counterparts. Photo: Kristy Muir

In particular, I note the tremendous care shown by the teachers and staff toward students who often come to them from very challenging circumstances.

Enterprise bargaining has been around since 1991. Over that time good employers have usually negotiated a gradual increase in the wages and conditions of employees, subject to the

circumstances prevailing at each enterprise at the time.

Even in religious "enterprises", such bargaining requires the employer and employee to conduct their negotiations in good faith:

" … for the labourer is worthy of his wages" [Luke 10:7].

As you well know, your employees provide support for their students that extends way beyond the roles and duties found in their baseline industrial awards. It is a particular calling to work in faith based institutions such as Carinity Education.

Teachers are striking this afternoon. Photo: Kristy Muir
Teachers are striking this afternoon. Photo: Kristy Muir

Therefore, I am surprised that the Carinity Education Board is almost holding your teachers and staff to ransom through the current enterprise bargaining negotiations.

I understand that Carinity Education, an outreach of Queensland Baptists, is attempting to actually implement cuts to the working conditions of its teachers and staff. The cuts will create second-tier teachers in Baptist schools including Carinity Education Sunnybank. The most experienced teachers at Carinity schools could be earning up to $8000 less per year than their state and Catholic school counterparts whilst undertaking some of the most challenging education work in Queensland.

As a religious provider of education, I would have expected that you would value, and treat with respect, the teachers and staff at your schools. It appears that the enterprise bargaining process is being 'gamed' to force your employees to accept an agreement that is substandard. The agreement currently put to a ballot by Carinity is the second such agreement. However, its terms and conditions are actually worse for employees than the first agreement which they democratically rejected.

This is the third strike since November 2017. Photo: Kristy Muir
This is the third strike since November 2017. Photo: Kristy Muir

Where is the board's care and compassion? Where is your Christian concern for your

employees?

Unfortunately, our nation's current industrial laws allow all employers, both good and bad, to

effectively hold their employees to ransom. The current rules allow for employers, both good and bad, to put forward lower and lower offers until the only offer on the table is the minimum award.

Thus employers can wipe away more than twenty years of workplace progress. It is very

disappointing that a religious organisation, such as Queensland Baptists, will avail itself of these underhand tactics.

Teachers and support staff from Sunnybank’s Carinity Education Southside will go on strike this morning to protest their employer’s plan to cut working conditions and create a potential $8000 pay gap between their state and Catholic school counterparts. Photo: Kristy Muir
Teachers and support staff from Sunnybank’s Carinity Education Southside will go on strike this morning to protest their employer’s plan to cut working conditions and create a potential $8000 pay gap between their state and Catholic school counterparts. Photo: Kristy Muir

Your board's tactics have actually made clear to me why the Queensland Council of Unions, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the independent Education Union Queensland and Northern Territory Branch are running a campaign where they are asking the Australian public to "change the rules". I strongly believe that employees, like the caring teachers and staff employed at Carinity schools, deserve better.

I respectfully ask you and the board to reconsider the hard-line approach you have taken to the current negotiations. I know your schools do invaluable work - please don't demean and devalue your staff by offering them less.