Catholic teachers across Maitland could face the sack for being gay, using in vitro fertilisation or revealing a divorced status as part of a proposed new ethos, the Independent Education Union has warned.
According to the controversial proposal (included in the schools’ new salary agreement), employees working in Catholic schools across NSW and the ACT are required to avoid any public and overt behaviour in or out of the workplace, by word, action or lifestyle, contrary to the mission, teachings or values of the church.
“Essentially, this means our members will have to act a certain way at all times or be open to disciplinary action, including the termination of employment,” the union’s Hunter organiser Therese Fitzgibbon said.
“Our members have always supported the church’s ethos and philosophy at school, but under this new clause there is a direct requirement for staff to behave a certain way outside the workplace.”
Ms Fitzgibbon said the clause would target those in same-sex relationships, divorced employees and those who had remarried.
Teachers and staff who have used in vitro fertilisation and support abortion could also come under threat, she said.
“We feel this proposal is extraordinarily intrusive on the lives of our members,” Ms Fitzgibbon said.
“Our members are professionals and they have a role to uphold the philosophy of the Catholic education, but the employer does not have the right to publicly dictate or discipline staff members based on their lifestyles.”
Director of Schools for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Ray Collins said the new enterprise agreement was still being negotiated.
“What’s important to remember is that through existing arrangements - including policies, letters of appointment and codes of conduct - what is being proposed with the Catholic ethos clause is already expected of our staff - to support the mission, values and teachings of the church,” Mr Collins said.
“What is being attempted through these negotiations is to be clearer and more up front about those expectations, which are not a change from current practice.”
However, Ms Fitzgibbon said at least one Hunter teacher has already expressed concern over her status as a divorced woman.
“This member is very much concerned her career opportunities will be limited and her fears are valid. This issue will affect all our Maitland teachers,” she said.
Union representatives will meet with school employers on Monday to discuss the new salary agreement.
What is proposed
Employees working in NSW/ACT Catholic schools are required to support the mission, teachings and ethos of the Catholic Church’s work in schools.
This requires that they:
a) Acknowledge and accept that their work in schools is part of the mission of the Catholic Church.
b) Agree in the performance of their role to uphold the mission, teachings and ethos of the Catholic Church in Catholic education as determined by each diocesan bishop from time to time.
c) Avoid any public and overt behaviour in or out of the workplace, by word, action or lifestyle, which is contrary to the mission, teachings or values of the Catholic Church.