Ipswich catholic school teachers fifth strike in two months
TEACHING may be considered one of the noblest professions - but it can also be one of the most demanding.
Catholic school teachers in Ipswich say they are working longer hours than ever before, with many feeling overwhelmed by the workload.
The situation has become so dire, it's forced thousands of teachers across Queensland to repeatedly go on strike in their call for better work conditions and pay.
For a fifth time in the past two months, unionised Catholic school staff stopped work during school hours, as negotiations with their employers remained unresolved.
During the stop-work action, a crowd of teachers in Ipswich gathered in town to consider their next move.
Among those at the meeting was St Mary's teacher Kevin Skehan, who said the current demands of teaching required him to do a lot of unpaid overtime.
Mr Skehan, who has worked in the education industry for more than 30 years, said he carried out 17 hours of unpaid work last week, which wasn't uncommon.
"Outside of the classroom I'm answering emails from students, printing and correcting their work and planning lessons," he said.
"I spend my lunch hours in the class so that students can meet with me and go through their work.
"As teachers, we do this extra work because we care about our students, now it's time for our employers to care about us."
Independent Education Union Queensland and Northern Territory Branch secretary Terry Burke said current school teacher workload arrangements had not changed since 1992.
"The employers seem set on keeping their teachers working under these outdated conditions, which fail to recognise that teachers' roles have evolved and expanded over the last 20 years," he said.
In addition to the call for improved work conditions, Catholic teachers are also asking for better wages.
Mr Burke said Queensland's most experienced teachers were earning $6792 less then their NSW counterparts each year.
Despite seven months of negotiations, the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement.
More than 3000 parents in Ipswich have signed a petition in support of the Catholic school staff.
IEUA-QNT organiser Craig Darlington said the union was working with Catholic schools to minimise disruption to classrooms during the stop-work actions.
He said if the dispute remained unresolved, Catholic teacher strikes would likely continue into January, next year.
Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry argued that employers had listened to the concerns of employees and had amended their position on a number of workload issues.
"Catholic school employers have shown themselves, over a long period of time, to be responsible employers who want to deliver a fair package for their staff," she said.
"These stoppages place an extra burden on staff and school administration that everyone can do without."
The union and QCEC will resume negotiations on November 10.