Support staff survey findings

– unpaid overtime common

One issue that is causing deep concern is the constant stress of insecure work, keenly felt by teachers’ aides.

In light of the upcoming negotiations for the Catholic systemic enterprise agreement due to expire at the end of the year, the Union sent a survey to support staff working in the 11 Catholic dioceses across NSW/ACT to gauge the issues facing them at work.

Much of what the Union already knew from our chapter meetings, calls, emails, and industrial cases has been confirmed by the feedback to the survey, which particularly sought to determine the duration and frequency of unpaid overtime undertaken by support staff.

A key finding is that a staggering 92% of respondents indicated that they start work before their scheduled time, and 90% stay back. Additionally, 37% never claim overtime and 47% have been directed to take time in lieu instead of an overtime payment.

The breadth of experiences of our support staff members in schools also generated a wide range of issues in the workplace, including:

  • lack of awareness of particular entitlements, such as the overnight allowance
  • favouritism or nepotism in the selection of candidates
  • inequity in allocations of work
  • lack of transparency in appointments
  • completion of PD in non work hours
  • long term rolling temporary appointments
  • highly skilled tasks being under classified, and
  • Work, health and safety concerns with regards to fatigue and mental health.

The Union also hosted a cluster meeting for Parramatta Diocese support staff at Blacktown Workers Club on 13 August. Given support staff often miss chapter meetings in schools, the Union wanted to engage with support staff and add their feedback to the log of claims.

The meeting was attended by support staff holding a variety of levels and roles, from teachers’ aides, to library assistants, administrative staff and lab technicians, and provided important insight into their concerns.

One issue that is causing deep concern is the constant stress of insecure work, keenly felt by teachers’ aides.

Also of concern was the time some schools are taking to communicate role allocations and availabilities year by year, with decisions communicated in late December, and only via email.

Another frustration was that support staff are often not aware of their entitlements as waged workers, which is not being communicated by school leadership teams.

The Union is aware that some support staff have not been informed of the overtime provision or that there is an overnight camp allowance in the enterprise agreement.

The Union is seeking to remedy these issues with the current log of claims which looks at tightening the pathway to permanency, LSL accrual equity and meaningful Professional Development.

The Union is also implementing additional ways to engage support staff beyond our Gaining Ground and Newsmonth publications, our biannual conference (which takes place on 13 September this year) and our social media channels.

We encourage all support staff to complete the survey and invite their colleagues to join the Union in order to stay up to date with our claim, and, importantly, to access their rights and entitlements at work.

Lubna Haddad
Here is just a small selection from the myriad of comments the IEU has received through this survey:

“While I’m not asked to work overtime, if I didn’t, the work wouldn’t be completed. Taking time in lieu isn’t an option as the work will just continue to build up.”

“I would like to add that if I do get time in lieu, I’m never allowed to take this when it is convenient for me. Most times I have been instructed to take it at the end of the year.”

“Our roles as aides are never guaranteed from year to year due to funding. We don’t have security and sometimes don’t know how much work we have until the start of the year. I feel like we need to keep our CV fresh and up to date all the time.”

“Often extra work is given with the comment. ‘Only if you have time’. Or ‘Can I have it first thing tomorrow morning’. More and more tasks are added without consultation, but with expectation it will be done or the flow-on logistical consequences of these additions.”

“I frequently miss breaks in order to help a learning support child who is in need or a teacher who is overwhelmed. This may be toileting, supervising eating or dealing with a meltdown or sensory issues or cleaning a classroom or discussing needs with a classroom teacher. I am not paid for this, I do it to help a child or teacher get through a day however it is becoming more expected in the workplace.”

“Never been paid or had time in lieu for any overnight excursions for the 13 years I’ve worked for Catholic education.”

“The most annoying unpaid work is the compliance training that is always in my own time and can take hours to complete; and teachers aides quite often have to prepare materials for support programs that are not provided by teaching staff and do this in our own time. We have no release time like teaching staff for this or training. I run a gardening program for the school which is planned for and organised in my own time. This requires a few hours planning and set up time every term.”

“It’s an expectation to work unpaid overtime. I have witnessed this in the last 24 years.”

“We do not get offers any Professional Development whereas teachers have constant access.”

“I do many hours per week at home, planning, organising work for students.”

“Support staff at my school often have their 30 minutes break interrupted by students who need assistance, whether that be to assist them with a special requirement like changing their hearing device or accompanying them in a lift to recess due to their needs. The full 30 minutes isn’t always able to be taken as the LSO is required to bring the class back to their room with the teacher once the bell rings.”

“Working as a Lab Tech I am often required to come in early or stay back late to set up/pack up pracs, equipment for prac exams etc. I’m sure if I asked I would be given time in lieu, however, if I take that time off, there’s nobody here to do my job so it just means extra work when I return. It defeats the purpose. I would much rather be paid for the extra hours that I do (to supplement our ordinary wage!)”

“I am fully aware of my rights, so I have always been treated fairly.”

“I don’t claim the overtime I work because I know my school can’t afford to pay me. I do the overtime because I can’t keep up with the workload.”