IEU response to CCER letter from 23 March
The IEU has written in response to CCER's letter from 23 March regarding your working entitlements and conditions in the current COVID-19 situation.
Our letter can be read in full below.
Dear IEU Member
CATHOLIC SYSTEMIC SCHOOLS AND COVID-19
I am writing to give you an update on developments about your working entitlements and conditions in the current COVID-19 situation.
At around 6.30pm last night, we heard back from the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) on behalf of all NSW and ACT Catholic dioceses, in response to our letter of 19 March 2020 and other issues raised by the union in recent days.
In summary, the CCER response was:
Decisions as to school closures
In line with Government directives, Catholic schools are to remain open.
The union has called for schools to be closed for students.
Staff members who are considered at risk because of a pre-existing health condition should speak with their principal to appropriately mitigate their health risks.
Pregnant women may work from home where possible or where not request to access Long Service Leave or Annual Leave (if applicable) or where these have been exhausted access a period of unpaid leave.
The union is calling for this position to be communicated unequivocally to school principals. In the case of pregnant women, health advice is now that they are a vulnerable or ‘at risk’ group. In this case, pregnant employees must be provided with a safe job or ‘paid no safe job leave‘ if a safe job is not available, pursuant to Section 81 of the Fair Work Act.
Vulnerable staff with a pre-existing medical condition may, where possible, work from home. Where this is not possible, the staff member would be able to access their paid Personal/Carer’s Leave, Personal Leave, Long Service Leave or Annual Leave (if applicable). Where paid leave is exhausted, they may request to take unpaid leave.
The union is requesting ex gratia leave of at least 10 days be provided if working from home is not an option.
Where a pre-existing condition has been previously disclosed dioceses, will not require any further medical evidence.
Staff members caring for an elderly or vulnerable relative living within their household will be dealt with on a case by case basis. On the production of satisfactory evidence, they may request to access their Long Service Leave or Annual Leave, if applicable, or if exhausted may request unpaid leave.
The union’s view is that all staff in this situation should be permitted to work from home where there is a vulnerable person in the household.
What about carer’s duties for children at home?
Many IEU members are very concerned about this issue. Although in theory schools are remaining open for children of workers in essential services, at the same time, parents are being urged to keep their children at home. To avoid further stress and anxiety to staff who are parents of school-aged children, the union is requesting that all such staff who need to care for their children at home, be permitted to work from home if practicable. Staff who cannot work from home should be provided with up to 10 days ex gratia leave or carer’s leave to explore alternate arrangements.
Scope of these arrangements
Dioceses cannot commit to implementing this approach beyond the end of Term 1.
Dioceses need to set up improved and responsive communications so all employees know their entitlements and the arrangements which will apply. These arrangements should be made known as early as possible and need to be regularly updated to take into account changing circumstances.
Hygiene and work safety
Schools should be undertaking thorough cleaning and disinfecting of premises. Temporary closures of schools should take place where any confirmed case is identified.
Schools are assessing supplies of hand sanitiser and soap as a matter of urgency. Schools are not implementing daily temperature taking as it would be unviable and is not a definitive indicator of the virus.
The clear direction to all staff and students is to remain at home if they are unwell.
Members should meet as a Chapter (with appropriate social distancing) to assess the WHS issues in their workplace. If members assess there are significant WHS risks, they should advise the Union and their principal. Employers must immediately address all WHS risks and if the issues cannot be rectified, the school should close to students immediately. Staff must then be provided with sufficient soap and sanitisers and physical space to undertake their duties safely or be permitted to work from home.
Most professional development and meetings and other extra-curricular activities have been cancelled. The dioceses are working at a system level to provide further support.
It is the position of the union that teachers only teach once, either online or face to face. Members are encouraged to make professional decisions as to what mode of delivery is appropriate for their school. This may involve collapsing classes or forming multi-year classes to ensure teachers are not faced with both online and face to face responsibilities. The union understands this is similar to the ‘one unit of work’ approach being adopted by NSW government schools.
A final word from the union
Members are urged to meet as a Chapter (with appropriate social distancing) to discuss school-based issues or contact us directly about individual matters. Please do not hesitate to contact the IEU Organiser for your workplace on 8202 8900 or 1800 467 943 (toll free for country members).
Going forward, the union is calling for employers to improve consultation and communication with the union and employees as a matter of urgency.
We are meeting this afternoon with the Federal Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, and we are also seeking a meeting with the NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, Sarah Mitchell.
We will keep you informed.
Please note that our website www.ieu.asn.au is being updated constantly.