STOP WORK: Lismore IEU Organiser Sandra White at a strike at the Lismore Workers Club.
STOP WORK: Lismore IEU Organiser Sandra White at a strike at the Lismore Workers Club. Marc Stapelberg

Why teachers from 350 schools went on strike

CATHOLIC school teachers say they will not be held for ransom by employers as negotiations for an enterprise agreement turned sour.

More than 40 teachers from the Northern Rivers were a part of a strike at the Lismore Workers Club hosted by Lismore Independent Education Union (IEU) yesterday.

Lismore IEU Organiser Sandra White said they had been in negotiations for more than 12 months when employers decided to go directly to their employees without the endorsement of the IEU.


"This has never happened before in Australia from Catholic employers, to cut out the union, the people who represent the workers in Catholic schools and negotiate in their interests," Mrs White said.

"I find it totally flabbergasting and surprising, we can't understand why they have taken up this entrenched position."

The dispute was about Catholic employers vetoing the right of the union to access the Fair Work Commission for arbitration.

A teacher at St Francis Xavier Primary in Ballina Cath Egan said she feels they haven't been negotiated with fairly.

"Our union has been trying to negotiate with the employers all year and it has come to this," Mrs Egan said.

"With the new enterprise agreement that has been given by our employers we feel there is no course for us to go to an umpire if there is a problem.

"None of us want to be here, none of us want to be away from our students, none of us want to be away from our school, but we feel as though we had no choice really because we need to stand for what we believe is right."

Employers are said to be withholding staff pay rises which were agreed upon nearly a year ago to incentivise a yes vote.

"The employers are dangling the carrot of a pay rise under people's noses which is obviously a tempting thing to many people," Mrs White said.

"You can't sell off your rights so we have to ask people to vote no to the enterprise agreement.


"We would like this to be resolver, we'd like the employers to understand the people they are employing don't want to be treated this way and to actually see sense and settle the dispute," Mrs White said.