Informal ‘chats’ used to cut staff hours in breach of collective agreement

12 November, 2020

School officer members at a Queensland Catholic school were recently told through informal, one-on-one ‘chats’ that there would be a major restructure to their working hours in 2021 due to funding changes.

IEU Organiser Craig Darlington said the employer had failed to give proper notification in writing to, or engage in proper consultation with, the potential affected employees and our union.

“This employer action rang alarm bells for the school’s IEU Chapter – who immediately contacted me as their IEU Organiser,” Craig said.

”Consequently, we immediately demanded the employer halt any workplace changes and start consultation with employees and our union, as is the legal obligation under the collective agreement.

“With the support of our union, the Chapter collectively developed and passed a Chapter Position which could be reasonably implemented to address the changes in funding and maintain as much job security for each affected employee as possible,” Craig said.

Strong IEU Chapter critical

“A key aspect of the Chapter Position was to ensure that the reduction in hours was split evenly between all the school officers.

“The Chapter also made the reasonable request that should any extra hours become available during 2021, they would be offered to existing staff in the first instance, including replacement of permanent positions and relief work.

“Notably, the teachers within the IEU Chapter added their support to the proposal and their school officer colleagues.

“Our union kept following up with the employer after the Chapter Position was presented to them until we received written confirmation that it had been largely accepted.

“Even if the reduction in hours is genuine, the employer still failed to follow the mandatory consultation process for implementing workplace changes set out in the collective agreement.

“The Chapter’s strong position has ultimately ensured the rights of these school officers were upheld – this is the collective in action,” Craig said.

Cutting hours without consultation breaches agreements

Unfortunately, cuts to school officer hours for 2021 without the proper notification and consultation to our union have been recently identified in many schools across the Queensland and Northern Territory non-government education sector.

Our union continues to work with IEU Chapters to ensure that employer obligations under collective agreements are met and any cuts are genuine.

IEU Industrial Services Officer Melanie Stellmacher urged members to be cautious and question any workplace changes, particularly for school officers or members on fixed-term contracts.

“At the first sign of any change in the workplace members should contact our union immediately,” Melanie said.

“Even if you don’t think a change will have negative implications, it is better to let our team of experts double-check and provide advice,” Melanie said.

Your rights @ work 

Any employer who intends to make a major workplace change must provide notice of the major change and enter into consultation with affected employees and our union.

At a minimum, the notification needs to address:

  • The number of employees and the area, department or team affected;
  • The nature of the proposed change and the potential effects on employees;
  • The status of the employer’s considerations;
  • The likely timeframes; and
  • The potential options to mitigate the impact of the change or entitlements available to employees.

Members should contact our union immediately if there is any talk of workplace change for 2021 – our team of experts in industrial and workplace relations will be able to provide quick support and advice specific to each situation.

Members can contact us via industrial@ieuqnt.org.au or via FREECALL 1800 177 937 (QLD) or 1800 351 996 (NT).

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