Teacher pay glitch in Catholic schools?

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald (17 March) referred to a “pay glitch” in NSW government schools that means teachers are earning up to $14,000 less than colleagues with fewer years of experience because of changes to the statewide pay scale.

The article is referring to the introduction of the standards pay scale from January 2016 as part of a new award applying from 2014. Teachers employed from 1 January 2016 in the department progress more quickly up the pay scale than teachers employed in earlier years.

The standards pay scale was also introduced in NSW and ACT Catholic systemic schools from 2016. At the time the IEU sought that all teachers be transferred directly onto the new faster scale but this was not agreed. However it was agreed that the standards pay scale would apply to any teachers employed after 1 January 2014, which was two years earlier than the date in the department. If you had continuous service with another Catholic diocese this meant you were not counted as a new start.

In the 2017 enterprise agreement negotiations, the IEU sought a catch up for those teachers on the old incremental scale to ensure they could not be overtaken by teachers with lesser experience. This led to the introduction of the ‘skip step’, which in effect eliminated one pay step, Step 10, on the old scale for teachers who had Proficient status. This provision applied as part of the NSW and ACT Catholic Systemic Schools Enterprise Agreement approved by the Fair Work Commission in August 2018, but the skip step was retrospective to July 2017.

The 'skip step' was not part of negotiations in the government sector and therefore was not introduced into the teacher pay scale in the 2017 Crown Employees Award. However, the NSW government has now agreed to review the transition provisions for pre-2016 teachers as part of negotiations with the NSW Teachers Federation for a new award to apply from 2020. The Teachers Federation has estimated it will cost between $25 million to $27 million to fix the anomaly to ensure teachers with more experience are not being paid less than teachers employed after them.

The Union will certainly be watching these negotiations carefully and we will seek to flow on any improvements to our members in Catholic schools. In the meantime IEU members who are concerned about their pay rate should not hesitate to raise the matter with their organiser so we are aware of examples of anomalies remaining in our system. We will be raising these issues in the negotiations with Catholic employers later this year for a new enterprise agreement.

Carol Matthews
Assistant Secretary