The year ahead

Already it is clear that 2018 will be a full and demanding year for the IEU. The term begins with significant unfinished business for our members in Catholic systemic schools who as yet have no enterprise agreement (EA) to replace the one which expired in 2016.

Twelve months of negotiations, two stop work actions and the resounding defeat of a deficient employer proposal last year has positioned us well to achieve a solid outcome in coming weeks.

This is a first order priority and during January the Union met with Catholic diocesan representatives to provide a blueprint to settle this long running dispute. If employers respond positively we hope to have a recommendation for our members to support by the middle of the first term.

In addition, to ensure there are no impediments to resolving all matters concurrently we are seeking urgent meetings with those dioceses where the content of Work Practice Agreements is not finalised. Members have made it clear that these agreements, which regulate so much of teachers’ work, form an integral part of settling our claim and we’ll not take a backward step on these issues.

Since bargaining began the corporate identity of the Archdiocese of Sydney has changed and it is therefore necessary for that employer to issue new Representational Rights Notices to their employees.

Voting for an EA cannot occur for at least 21 days after these notices have been issued. This technicality however provides a timetable framework for completing negotiations on all outstanding matters and the Union has advised Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) that we propose to observe this schedule.

This is not the only EA in the making, with most Christian schools and ACT congregational schools at or near completion. Negotiations are also underway for EAs in numerous early childhood services, including both group and individual services.

Equal pay case

Another significant part of our agenda this year is further prosecuting our equal pay case before the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on behalf of our early childhood members. These teachers often earn $30,000 per annum less than their colleague teachers in schools despite identical university qualifications and teaching experience.

The Union lodged evidence before the Fair Work Commission late last year, interested parties will respond in coming months and we expect the FWC to hear the matter and make a determination before the year end.

These are the final steps in the IEU case that has been running before the FWC since 2013 and is based on comparisons with male employees – male teachers in primary schools and male engineers.

New PD program

A significant number of our teacher members in NSW who were teaching prior to October 2004 and have until recently been exempt from teacher accreditation are now captured by the Teacher Accreditation Act (from 1 January) and have commenced their first maintenance of accreditation period.

Our PD program will concentrate on the fundamentals of NSW teacher accreditation and specific requirements for maintaining accreditation in the first half of the year. Members will acquire both the knowledge they need to navigate the accreditation maze and begin accumulating the Professional Development hours required for maintaining accreditation.

The Union has been working with a handful of members who experienced delays with the processing of their Working with Children Checks and with dozens of others who have not been advised by NESA of their accreditation at Proficient Teacher status generally because employers have passed on inaccurate or incomplete details to NESA. The Union has been and will continue to work closely with NESA to secure appropriate accreditation status for these members.

Independent schools

Providing assistance to members in independent schools operating the Standards and Hybrid EA models will further develop during 2018 as the numbers seeking to access higher classifications continue to grow. The support provided by specialist IEU Officers on these matters and on all aspects of accreditation and registration is a much appreciated benefit of Union membership.

The year must also be one of focus on recruitment. Close to 1000 new teachers and support staff will commence employment in non government schools throughout NSW and the ACT and they must be persuaded of the benefits of belonging to the IEU. Former members must be brought back into the fold too. Those who reap the profits won by Union members but who do not contribute through membership must be addressed. There is unfinished business here too.

Much is already happening at a state and federal government level regarding education and industrial policy and legislation. We will have our voices heard in these debates also. We will join with the ACTU and colleague unions to ‘change the rules’ and make Australia a fairer and more egalitarian society, and seek to change the mind of government when it gets things wrong like the robot marking of NAPLAN and linking the HSC to NAPLAN results.

Above all we will advocate to protect and enhance the working conditions of our members across all sectors. There is much to be done.

John Quessy