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Slater and Gordon successfully acted for the Independent Education Union of Western Australia against the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Perth (the provider of Catholic Education in Western Australia) in an interpretation of an agreement dispute before the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

The IEU and the Catholic Education Office were in dispute about the proper construction of clauses 23 and 24 of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Perth Teachers Enterprise Agreement 2012.

The Catholic Education Office made changes to work hours of teachers and the IEU argued that clause 23 required the Catholic Education Office to consult with the IEU prior to making an alteration to the work hours. The Catholic Education Office refused to consult with the IEU, arguing that the change to the work hours was minor and not a “significant effect” so as to enliven the consultation requirements under clause 23.

Clause 24 expressly referred to a Teacher Workloads policy and provided that the Policy could only be changed with the agreement of both parties. The Policy set the maximum work hours of a teacher. By changing the work hours of teachers the Catholic Education Office unilaterally changed the Policy. We argued the plain and ordinary interpretation of clause 24 meant that a change to the Policy could only be made with mutual agreement.

The WAIRC agreed with our submission that it is clear from the wording of clause 23 of the EBA that any alteration of hours of work is a ‘significant effect’ so as to enliven the consultation requirements in clause 23. The WAIRC further agreed that the Catholic Education Office cannot unilaterally change the Policy where there is a change to work hours of a teacher.

The favourable interpretation potentially opened the door to a penalties claim against the Catholic Education Office for a breach of the EBA.

Independent Education Union of Western Australia, Union of Employees (IEUWA) v Roman Catholic Archbishop of Perth [2016] WAIRC 00747.

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