Catholic employer backpay failure leads to federal court action

3 December, 2020

Our union has today (3 December 2020) taken the extraordinary step of taking the Toowoomba Catholic Education Office and Downlands College to the Federal Court following their respective failures as employers to provide backpay to a number of employees.

The case follows the decision of both employers to renege on the provisions in the new Queensland Catholic collective agreements and not back-pay employees who have left employment before approval of the agreement.

IEU Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the agreements became operative yesterday (Wednesday, 2 December 2020).

“The operative date of the agreements had already faced a lengthy wait from when members voted for them, due in large part by the failure of Queensland Catholic school employers to address technical issues in the agreement which created extra delays in the Fair Work Commission review and approval of the agreements,” Mr Burke said.

“The decision by these employers directly contravened the provisions of the new Catholic collective bargaining agreement which states that backpay will be provided to all employees who were employed as at the date of the first wage increase prescribed by the collective agreement.

“The date of this first increase was the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2019.

“These means even though some employees may have left their employ in the period between that first increase and the operative date of the new collective agreement (2 December 2020) – they are, under the agreement, entitled to the back pay for the time worked from the first increase until their departure.”

Employer position in conflict with rest of sector

“Not only does this decision go against the provisions in the current and replacement agreements – it also conflicts with similar payments made in previous negotiations.

“Instead, these two employers are adopting a legalistic approach saying they are only required to back-pay employees who are employed at the time the agreement was approved by the Fair Work Commission (2 December 2020).

“Other Catholic employers have made the required back payments – so the stance of these two employers is even at odds with the rest of Catholic employers in Queensland.

“This approach by these two employers is confused, unfair, unjust and fails to respect the good work of their employees who were effective and engaged workers in the relevant period in 2019/2020,” Mr Burke said.

The federal court action comes following months of advocacy and action by IEU members in Toowoomba Catholic schools.

“So serious is this action by these employers that our union was left with no choice but to take them to the federal court,” Mr Burke said.

“We are always here for our members and we will pursue all options to deliver the full back-pay entitlements these employees are rightfully entitled to under their collective agreement,” he said.

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