The industrial work of any union will always be the basis on which it is judged and we have a proud history of agreement making. The bitter dispute of 2014-2015 with the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) in respect of Catholic systemic schools was settled just prior to the last AGM and there is still much unfinished business from that campaign.
Principals in all but the Archdiocese of Sydney remain without a current EA and staff in the ACT early learning centres are still awaiting finalisation of an agreement despite numerous negotiation meetings and discussions. We objected at the time to the exclusion of ELCs and the assurances of quick action towards their own industrial instrument were hollow promises indeed.
Making an enterprise agreement (EA) is worthless if the Union does not ensure it is enforced and aspects of the systemic schools EA have been challenged and the subject of dispute.
Rates of pay for casuals, sick leave for certain classes of employees and the timing of PD have all been disputed by employers but opposed and won by the Union. There were disputes also in regard to classification, allowance payments and other issues for support staff. One huge win for our members was a diocese wide reclassification for finance officers with full back pay. The result a pay increase of around $5000 per member and a back pay bill of about $70,000 across the system.
The most high profile ELICOS dispute was with Navitas where following a Protected Action Ballot, staff took stop work action on three occasions and voted down a proposed EA in April. Ultimately, a revised and slightly improved offer was endorsed in July.
Regarding child protection related dismissals, the Union has been involved for more than 18 months in a few matters where members have become ‘disqualified persons’, generally as a result of charges brought against them. The employer (Sydney Catholic Schools) has argued that “continued employment was unlawful” and has dismissed those employees despite charges not being tested by any court. Members are left with no capacity to seek relief from unfair dismissal or to seek reinstatement where charges are dropped or if cleared of the charges.
Negotiations with the AIS for Multi-Enterprise Agreements (MEAs) has concluded with ballots on those MEAs currently taking place. The AIS proposed three models of agreement, the Standards and Steps models plus a new Hybrid model for which the Union had little appetite.
The Hybrid did little to improve the prospects for members, replacing a benign ST1 process with a more rigorous ISSTA process and a lower Experience Teacher rate of pay. Through negotiation, we were able to make significant improvements on many aspects of the proposed agreements and on the ISSTA process.
Negotiations have yet to begin for the majority of our members covered by the systemic schools agreement but considerable work has gone into developing a claim. The fundamental issue to address for teachers, principals and support staff is the burden of intensified workloads and augmented expectations.
Operating more systematically as a Branch of the Federal Union, there is greater co-operation between branches which manifests in a variety of ways. The national and international reports address some of these and highlights a few evidenced for example by the nationwide inaugural School Support Staff Day which the IEUA co sponsored with our New Zealand colleagues at Education International last year.
The Union values learning for its staff and for its members and our Professional Development and Union Training program have again been extensive. Our third Easter Activists Conference was once more a successful venture encouraging another half dozen to become members of Council.
The core of PD programs this year had an industrial motif and more than 600 members took part in NSW Accreditation workshops while some 500 engaged with popular presenter Glen Pearsall to develop smarter ways to assess students. Originally planned only for Semester 1, we had to run a repeat roadshow in Semester 2 due to high demand.
Our PD team has been investigating new ways to deliver our programs and have begun to run online webinar sessions. This year the Early Childhood Conference was live streamed, allowing some 25 participants to experience both the keynote sessions and two of the workshops. We utilise the facilities and expertise of our partners TLN to support this.
Engagement with university students and enlisting them to the Union is a significant part of our recruitment and retention strategy. We have grown our membership by more than 600 student members this year and our Starting Strong enews has an audience of 2000.
In another first, we shared our Voice Care PIP with our South Australian colleagues via a webinar. New PIPs have been developed or updated and Staying Afloat, a course dealing with child protection issues will be piloted this term and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspective PIP has been updated following consultation with the newly formed committee. It is satisfying to note that our support staff members are taking increasing advantage of our PD program where they clearly find relevance for the work they do.
The Union has been able to provide one on one assistance to 75 part time and casual members working towards accreditation at Proficient teacher level through dedicated workshop days. These members frequently miss out on proper mentoring and often lack practical assistance at the school level.
Once again however the Union had 100% success with members we assisted although it continues to be clear that there is inconsistent support from schools for teachers on this pathway.
TeachMeets continue to be popular PD for our members and they have provided an opportunity for the IEU to incorporate both the work of our Environment Committee and our social justice agenda into the mainstream. We collaborated with the Refugee Council of NSW to highlight the plight of refugees in Australian classrooms and with APHEDA on a variety of campaigns. Our partnership with Teachers Mutual Bank provided sponsorship for seven of our schools and centres to receive environmental grants to continue projects boosting student learning on environmental issues.
I draw attention to the accomplishments of the ECS and the Women’s Conferences, both of which were as usual oversubscribed. Various reports clearly demonstrate how work intersects eg the Equal Remuneration Case which is referenced across a number of commentaries.
The usual compilation of membership statistics is included which continues to provide valuable data however they also show for the first time in our history a decline in membership over the past year. We are doing plenty of recruiting and since the last AGM we have enlisted more than 3000 new members yet still have a nett loss.
Message is out
A significant part of addressing that problem falls to our communications and publications team and the comments from that team addresses our range of publications and use of social media to get our message to members and prospective members.
Significant in the narrative is the increasing use we are making of analytics to determine what members need and want and how they want it delivered.
The most popular member benefit the Union offers continues to be the teacher exchange program which this year involved 15 members and a number of ‘firsts’ for us. The first principal exchange, the first double IEU/DET exchange and the first counsellor exchange are but a few detailed in the report. Successful exchanges are not simply a matter of finding a match. There is enormous work of a technical, administrative and bureaucratic nature, dealing with immigration, visas, work permits and the like before each can be completed.
It is proper that I acknowledge our partner organisations who have continued to support the IEU and its members. NGS Super, Teachers Mutual Bank and Teachers Health Fund in particular are great friends to the Union. In addition, there are others with whom we partner to provide services and advantages to the membership including The Welfare Rights Centre, New Law, Union Shopper and various professional associations of teachers including the Professional Teaching Council. Our charitable connections should not go unmentioned and include APHEDA, The Edmund Rice Foundation and ChilOut who campaign to get children out of detention.
There are some 27 Annexures to the Annual Report each of which speaks in some detail to the NSW/ACT Branch Agenda for 2016 and the work we have done on behalf of members. These have been prepared by officers and staff to whom I pay tribute for the work they have done and continue to do. Each report provides far more detail than I could hope to cover and showcases the enormous breadth of Union activity and issues. Each year I give the same advice and I’ll give it again. When people ask ‘What does the Union do for me?’ just hand over this book, it provides a comprehensive answer.
As always, this Annual Report is delivered on behalf of the Executive, officers and staff of the Union. Our collective achievements are just that, the achievements of the collective. I want also to acknowledge the input of you, the Union Council and to the untiring work of our chapter representatives and those who serve on various committees and in other forums.
In particular, the work of the Executive cannot go without acknowledgement and appreciation. These members serve in leadership roles in both the state organisation and the NSW/ACT Branch and although some of their tasks are tedious, they do it with cooperation, good humour and always do it well.
Five of the current Executive are retiring at the end of this current term of office and those five represent almost 70 years of service on the Executive. I thank them for that service and we will acknowledge them individually later this afternoon. The continuing Executive look forward to working with five newly elected members over the next three years and we congratulate them on their election.
It is generally our practice not to single out individuals however I want to acknowledge my leadership colleagues, Gloria [Taylor], Carol [Matthews], Mark [Northam], Pam [Smith], Liam [Griffiths] and to President Chris Wilkinson for their support and backing over the past year. My thanks also to Helen Gregory for her tireless work not only for me but particularly the work she does on behalf of Executive and Council.
This report is by way of a brief summary of Union activity over the past 12 months. It is an impossible task to do justice to all that this amazing Union does on a daily basis. I for one continue to be a proud part of it.