Present tense:

Brave member sets new legal precedent

Welcome back to another year of Present Tense, your window into the world of the private post secondary college sector.

Breaking new ground

In late November, English teacher and IEU member, Saeid Khayam, gave his name to a new legal principle, one which may have far reaching effects for employees in the post secondary sector.

It had been previously presumed that employees on expired fixed term (or sessional) contracts were not able to take action under unfair dismissal laws. Saeid was employed at Navitas English under a series on fixed term contracts for over a decade, before his contract was not renewed in mid 2016, even though nearly all of his colleagues on similar contracts were. Saied and his Union then sought to challenge the accepted law on sessional contracts, and, eventually, the claim was upheld by the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission, in late 2017.

This decision should have some impact on a sector that relies heavily on insecure work arrangements, in particular, long term casual or rolling fixed term contracts. The right of long term casuals to take unfair dismissal action has never been in dispute, but with a growing trend for employers to use fixed term contracts, this decision will hopefully provide some greater job security for those employed under such arrangements.

Agreements round up

In 2017, your Union finalised new agreements at several colleges, including SELC, Australian Pacific College, Embassy English, Taylor’s College, and Navitas English Services. These agreements will provide certainty for employees who work there, and such agreements also provide for superior salaries and conditions than those in the modern award.

In 2018, the IEU will also seek to commence bargaining with UoW College (in conjunction with the NTEU), WSU The College (alongside the NTEU and the CPSU), Navitas English, EF, Universal, Sydney College of English, Access, Embassy, and Insearch. If you are a member at any of those colleges, please contact your Union regarding details about how the bargaining process will work.

The Fair Work Act includes provisions for ‘good faith bargaining’, under which, where it can be demonstrated that a majority of employees (or section of employees, such as teachers) wish to bargain for an agreement, the employer must do so. To find out how this might work at your college, contact your Union.

Membership drive

Membership in the post secondary sector has been stable in recent years and has fluctuated between 400-500 members. However, there is tremendous untapped potential for your Union in the sector, with the majority of employees in private colleges not members of the IEU.

As most members know, there are a range of benefits for Union members. These include industrial advice and assistance (unfair dismissal, for example is common in the sector, and systematic underpayment is rife), discounts at museums and other consumer benefits, and being part of a greater movement pushing for improved salaries and conditions across the sector. And remember, the Union is not able to act for non members, or for new members with older issues.

We therefore ask all members to encourage your colleagues to join their Union, the Independent Education Union. They can join over the phone (8202 8900), via email ( or online through the website (, and Union fees are tax deductible. Help make your Union even stronger, today!

Kendall Warren