This came as a surprise to the teachers concerned because no one had discussed the idea of taking on home-room responsibilities with them. In addition other rumours surfaced about changes to working conditions. The school had also sparked anger amongst part-time teachers by announcing that they would be employed on worse working conditions for the following year.
The General Union submitted demands for no changes in working conditions for our members. The negotiations got off to a rocky start. Our members had originally been employed on one year contracts with various conditions, such as summer vacations, written into their contracts. However, for the last seven years or so these teachers had received no contract at all. The school argued that they had become regular full-time employees and could be required to perform any of the duties, such as becoming home room teachers, that regular permanent employees were expected to perform. This argument was opposed by the union as our members had never been told of any changes in their working conditions when they had no longer received a contract and they still do not receive all of the benefits of the regular full-time teachers, for example having a different bonus system or enjoying equal opportunities for promotion.
Over the winter break GU members were threatened with pay-cuts if they didn’t, amongst other things, attend morning staff meetings which are outside their official working hours. However, at the last negotiations the school agreed to withdraw their threats against General Union members and to recognise the conditions outlined in their previous contracts. It was also agreed that they would submit any changes to working rules to the union for negotiations.
With the falling numbers of school age students, there is substantial competition between private high-schools. This has resulted in pressure to worsen the conditions of employees, whether they are full-time, part-time, permanent employees or workers’ on limited term contracts. All teachers need union organisation to defend their pay and working conditions.