Present tense:

Bargaining for new agreements

One of the more practical benefits that members in the post secondary sector get from their Union is negotiated pay rises and other improvements in conditions, via the enterprise bargaining process. Several colleges have commenced bargaining for new agreements, or are about to do so.

Navitas English employs many IEU members, and negotiations have been going on for some months. In the first few meetings, the parties worked on redrafting the existing agreement, so that it is easier to follow, but over the last month or two we have reached more substantive matters. It is clear that members and their employer have different views on what might constitute desirable changes, and for a while it appeared that we might be in for a long arm wrestle. Recent meetings, though, have indicated a willingness to compromise, which may yet see an agreement struck by the end of the year.

At UoW College (the University of Wollongong), negotiations (in conjunction with the NTEU) have gone relatively smoothly so far, and the parties are close to agreement on several matters. Much work remains to be done, but a settlement by the end of the year is not out of the question.

Negotiations at Embassy College have also progressed, and these negotiations are seeing some co-ordination across state lines, as the college is simultaneously renegotiating its agreements in Melbourne and Brisbane. Consequently, the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch has been in regular contact with our sister unions in Queensland and Victoria. Unfortunately, Study Group (the parent company) is crying poor, so it remains to be seen what sort of outcome can be achieved.

Your Union is also consulting with members at several other colleges, including UNSW Global, Insearch, Sydney College of English, Access Language Centre, and Taylor’s College. Members at those colleges should keep an eye out for further updates.

The Fair Work Act contains provisions relating to ‘good faith bargaining’, under which an employer can be compelled to bargain, in good faith, where it can be demonstrated that a majority of employees (or section of employees, such as teachers) wish for that to happen. Enterprise agreements typically include superior salaries and conditions to those in the award, and so are well worth pursuing. To see how that might work in your college, contact your Union, the IEU.

Legal developments

Over the last couple of years, the Fair Work Commission has been undertaking a review of all modern awards, including the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2010, the award that applies in the private college sector. The IEUA has recently made a formal submission to have last year’s casual conversion decision included in this award, and your Union expects this application to be successful. The proposed clause will allow casual employees to elect to make their employment permanent after 12 months of continuous service. Another change that has already been approved is that casual employees will now have the same ‘right to request’ flexible work that other employees currently enjoy. This will allow casual employees to seek flexible work arrangements, to allow for, for example, being over 55, workers with disabilities, and domestic violence situations, as well as the previously existing rights for parents returning from parental leave.

Elections on the horizon

In the first half of 2019, voters in NSW will vote at both state and federal general elections. The NSW election has a fixed date (23 March), while the federal election can be any time from late this year up until May 2019 (though with the polls as they are, you would have to think that the government will hold off as long as it can).

Given the national focus of both the post secondary sector, and also of industrial law, it is the Federal Government that is probably more relevant for ELICOS members. In particular, members should be aware of the ACTU’s Change The Rules campaign, which is seeking to force changes to the Fair Work Act to make it more employee friendly. Interested members can check out the campaign here:

The IEU is not affiliated to any political party, though there seems little doubt that most aims of your Union – in both the state and federal spheres – would be better achieved after a change of government. In any event, all members should ensure that their enrolment is up to date, so you can make your vote count.

Kendall Warren