Weaponisation of temporary employment

Illegitimate contracts affect the conditions and bargaining power of all teachers and support staff.

Are temporary contracts being used to destabilise your workplace and generate a climate of fear? IEU enterprise agreements have rules around temporary appointments.

Active members of the IEU know that permanent employment is a core value of the union movement. Permanence of employment provides the foundation for fair workplace bargaining. Permanence for teachers and support staff is one of the fundamental aims of your IEU.

Casualisation and temporary work has grossly expanded in the wider Australian workforce. Practices such as the gig economy, a system in which organisations contract workers for short term engagements via apps, have entered Australians’ working lives. In this climate, it is paramount that IEU members vigilantly monitor the nature of temporary appointments at their workplaces.

Chapters have alerted the Union that a number of employers in the Ku-ring-gai (northern Sydney) and Lansdowne (south western Sydney) sub branches could possibly be straying from the rules of temporary teacher and support staff appointments, as worded in the various enterprise agreements.

Members often contact the IEU during Term 4 to question the nature of their temporary employment. Unfortunately, in this latter part of the year, members may feel uneasy about questioning their employment status with the school for fear of not receiving subsequent employment. This is a terrible situation for anyone and chapters are encouraged to assist their colleagues in this precarious situation.

As always, information is the key. Spreading the word to members and non members alike serves the chapter well.

Most enterprise agreements are clear in defining a ‘temporary teacher’. In summary, the most common legitimate reasons for use of temporary appointments are:

to replace a permanent teacher who is on leave of some type

to replace a teacher who was terminated (eg resigned) during the school year, and

due to school staffing reductions planned for the following year (Catholic systemic, Catholic independent) eg falling enrolments.

A teacher being offered a temporary contract must be advised in writing that a position is temporary and the reason why that position is temporary. This often results in the permanent teacher's name being placed on the temporary contract. For example ‘You are appointed to this temporary position for the following reason: Replacing Ms Jane who is on maternity leave’.

A teacher must absolutely not be placed on a temporary contract for the purposes of probation.

There are currently a number of chapters in the greater Sydney area mobilising to audit the use of temporary contracts at their school. These chapters are counting the number of their colleagues who are on leave and whether this corresponds with the number of temporary contracts operating at the school. Such chapters are effectively ‘stock taking’ temporary contracts to ensure employer adherence to the relevant enterprise agreement.

With information provided by active chapters, IEU officers are better able to approach the employer to seek rectification for any illegitimate temporary contracts. This could result in temporary teachers being offered permanence.

The ideal time of year for chapters to begin a campaign around temporary contracts is Term 1 2019. This leaves time and alleviates any end of year stress for temporary teachers.

Chapters are advised to contact the IEU immediately if they suspect any misuse of temporary appointments. Organisers are able to visit chapters and discuss the above information and strategies for the collective to assist those on illegitimate contracts.

Illegitimate contracts affect the conditions and bargaining power of all teachers and support staff.This is a core issue for unionists and must be vigilantly monitored.

Support staff: Why am I temporary?

James Jenkins-Flint