Present tense:

Change the rules!

Regular readers would be aware that the IEU is a supporter of the ACTU’s campaign to ‘change the rules’ – fundamentally changing the framework of industrial law. In March, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus outlined the Union movement’s wish list of proposed changes to the Fair Work Act and the industrial landscape. The basic issue is that the bargaining framework of the Act is flawed, and so most workers (including most of those in the post secondary college sector) default to the award, which generally only provides for basic minimum conditions.

The ACTU’s proposed changes include:

industry bargaining – allowing workers to bargain across a sector, not just in individual workplaces

better regulation of insecure work – workers in our sector know all too well about the over reliance on casual and temporary contracts

better regulation of the labour hire industry and the ‘gig economy’

arbitration of protracted disputes – employers are more and more “gaming the system” to avoid coming to acceptable resolutions

limits on working visas – employers should be using local workers first

cracking down on tax avoidance by large corporations – they should pay their fair share

rebuilding funding for schools, TAFE and universities, and

beefing up Commonwealth procurement rules so that the government can use its bargaining power to support local jobs.

This is an impressive list of aims, and now we must wait and see what the Labor Party settles on as policy at its national conference in July. So far, the ALP has made some encouraging noises, but it’s important to keep the pressure on them so that any future Labor government makes genuine improvements to the industrial landscape in Australia.

Agreement round up

Your Union continues to bargain for new agreements at several colleges, and in early April a settlement in principle was reached with the Taylor’s College AEP (formerly known as TELP).

The new agreement will provide for pay rises of 2.5% in 2018, 2.75% in 2019, 3% in 2020, and 3% in 2021. Given that the average increase across the economy over the last two years has been around 2% per annum, these are good outcomes, and ones well above the inflation rate.

The new agreement will also include provisions allowing for casual and sessional teachers to convert to ongoing employment, prescribed notice periods for casual teachers, and provisions allowing for leave for people suffering from domestic violence.

The IEU has also started bargaining at Navitas English NSW, and EF English College, and will soon start bargaining at Access, Embassy, Insearch, Sydney College of English, UoW College, and Universal.

Enterprise agreements generally provide for superior wages and conditions than the award. The Fair Work Act contains provisions allowing for bargaining agreements – to see how this might work at your college, contact your Union at

Underpayments and unfair dismissals

The private post secondary college sector is rife with poor employment practices and insecure work. Despite that, your Union has regularly been able to get good outcomes for members who have been mistreated.

It is a sadly common practice in the industry for colleges to routinely pay at rates below the award. To be clear, it is unlawful to pay at rates below the applicable award (or agreement) rate, and employees are able to claim any such underpayments for up for six years after the fact. In the last year alone, your Union has made claims totalling several thousand dollars on behalf of members, so it’s worth checking your pay rates and your pay slips.

Similarly, many employers in the sector regard employees as disposable, and often dismiss employees without due cause. But did you know that casuals and some sessional employees are eligible to lodge unfair dismissal applications in some circumstances? Successful claims of this sort might allow you to be reinstated to your position, or to claim financial compensation for lost wages.

If you want any more information about these or other matters, contact your Union, the IEU.

Kendall Warren