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Grafton Catholic teachers on strike

A GRAFTON Catholic school union representative says an attack on employment conditions and a high-handed attitude has prompted industrial action to hit the Clarence Valley today.

Independent Education Union Lismore Diocese organiser Steve Bergan said the Catholic Commission of Employment Relations' new enterprise agreement threatened to end conditions such as capped class sizes.

Moves to shift professional development courses to weekends, holidays and after hours had also upset teachers, as had increasing face-to-face teaching time, taking away class preparation time for primary teachers and removing a 30-minute lunch break.

"In the past when an enterprise agreement comes due, the new agreement is negotiated based on the old agreement," Mr Bergan said.

"We put our next claim in November but didn't expect to hear much at the end of the year. We didn't hear anything back from them in the new year but in April they got back to us."

He said the enterprise agreement they offered was nothing like anything he had seen before.

"It is a total deregulation of our workplace," he said. "Things are being taken away like religious education co-ordinators and assistant principals.

"It's a distributed leadership model where people may or may not have the experience needed to do the jobs asked of them."

St Joseph's Primary School, South Grafton, union representative Peter Woolridge said the attitude of the commission had also infuriated teaching staff.

"It's the manner of the way they've negotiated it that's got teachers' backs up," he said.

"They've come back with this agreement and there doesn't seem to be any give or take in it."

CCER executive director Tony Farley said the union had been misleading teachers with its claims.

"From the very beginning, Catholic employers have told the union that everything they have proposed is negotiable. We've never said any of our proposals are take it or leave it," he said.

"The union know that an agreement that everyone supports will come from continuing the discussions we're already having."

The campaign kicked off yesterday as more than 800 teacher rallied in Sydney. Catholic teachers on the north coast will hold stop-work meetings today.

Topics:  catholic, catholic education, grafton, strike

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