This is a statement that has been said to hundreds of people already this year, Amy Cotton Professional Officer, and Donna Widdison Organiser, IEUA NSW/ACT Branch write.
They started 2018 with a new job and all of the emotions that go with that: hope, excitement, commitment and pride. Yet within six months their new employer has dismissed them, with little regard to the impact this has on the teacher, their colleagues and the school community as a whole.
Employers in Australia have an unfair advantage over employees. They may dismiss without citing a reason any new employee who hasn’t worked the minimum employment period (six months for large businesses and 12 months for businesses with fewer than 15 regular employees). The Union movement needs to change the rules on that.
While employees are expected to have wholehearted commitment to workplaces, the relationship isn’t required to be reciprocal.
“You’re not a cultural fit for the school.”
Yasmin was thrilled to learn in late 2017 that she’d successfully been appointed at a large, prestigious school in Sydney. A visual arts teacher, it’s hard to find permanent jobs in her subject area, and this role and opportunity were perfect for her. The school selected her as a candidate because of her innovative teaching practice and she was keen to grow and develop in her new role. She resigned her position at another school, refinanced her mortgage and prepared for the 2018 teaching year.
Soon after starting, it became clear that Yasmin taught differently to others. She referenced non canon artists, made her own resources, prepared different pathways through the syllabus and implemented new ICT programs. The parent body became concerned – Yasmin’s classes weren’t the same as the teacher down the corridor. They didn’t know the artists she talked about. They didn’t know her past teaching history of consistent Band 6s in the HSC.
Management brought Yasmin in for a meeting and told her that she just wasn’t a cultural fit for the school, that her teaching didn’t “meet our standards of academic rigour” and dismissed her.
Yasmin had no chance to address her practice, no understanding what ‘cultural fit’ actually meant, no opportunity to explain the methodology of her practice and is now unemployed. She gave up a permanent job and made a show of good faith in her future employer that they would commit just as fully to her in return. They let her down.
This is a common enough occurrence in non government schools and early childhood centres. That doesn’t make it sound practice by the employer. It may even hide an uglier practice – ‘You just don’t fit’ might be code for sexism, racism or ageism.
So what went wrong here?
‘Probation’ periods should not be used as the final step in a recruitment process. There shouldn’t be a ‘try before you buy’ approach; if an employer’s recruitment process is so weak that they rely on being able to dismiss someone in the first months of employment, something is wrong.