Christian schools: A bridge over troubled waters

Christian Schools Australia Agreement

Members have resoundingly voted ‘yes’ to the new Christian Schools Australia Agreement, which affords them pay rises well above the NSW Government imposed 1.5% salary cap.

Key features of the agreement include pay rises and detailed provisions on how to request flexible working arrangements (for example, because the teacher would like to work part time to care for their child or because the teacher is a carer for aged parents).

New classifications for Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher will come in from the beginning of 2021 for teachers who have been accredited as such by NESA. The rate of pay will be approximately $6000 above the Step 13 teacher rate, but the additional amount is not paid on top of a promotions allowance, if the teacher holds a promotions position.

Additional improvements

The provisions applying to teachers moving from interstate or overseas will be clarified, so that experienced teachers who do not have NESA Proficient accreditation on commencement will not be penalised, provided the teacher attains their Proficient accreditation within one year.

Further, an improvement in the new MEA will allow more flexible timing of the two weeks paid concurrent parental leave (including paternity leave). The leave can be taken any time within 12 months of the date of birth or adoption rather than immediately from the date of birth or adoption. Leave is deducted from personal/carer’s leave.

This agreement is significant as its duration (2021-23) bridges 2022 which is likely to be a challenging year in salary terms, due to the NSW Government’s proposed legislative cap on public servants pay of 1.5%, if productivity measures can be demonstrated. Productivity measures are not synonymous with education, are inordinately difficult to assess and at their core, conflict with the collegial nature of teaching.

Under the NSW Government’s policy settings, teachers, support staff and principals will see no real wage increases for the next four years. It should be noted that forecast inflation is 1.5%. Put simply, a freeze on real wage growth is being implemented by the NSW Government.

How does this impact on enterprise agreements which sit outside the jurisdiction of the NSW Government – for example, Catholic systemic schools and Association of Independent Schools – which are in the federal industrial relations system?

NSW public servants salary outcomes set a benchmark. Catholic systemic salary outcomes have for decades been linked to NSW state government school teachers’ outcomes. When a wet blanket is applied to public servants, its impact is widespread.

AIS schools are currently ‘bargaining’ but salary outcomes are being delivered locally. The NSW Government has created a climate where employers feel comfortable driving down salaries.

The IEU joined with public sector unions in recent times to reject the 1.5% cap and its negative implications. Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey indicated the decision “is a slap in the face for public sector workers after the most challenging year of their lives”.

“Reasonable pay increases would have been the quickest, most efficient way to have achieved economic stimulus,” Morey said.

The Federal Government has also recalibrated its wages policy. Federal public servant increases are linked to the private sector. Professor John Buchanan, Head of Analytics at University of Sydney’s Business School is critical of this stance. Buchanan captures it adroitly when he stipulates that “in times of recession it (the Federal Government) has a leadership role to play – and that is to set a positive wages norm”.

Leadership on salary outcomes is vital. Currently the AIS has abrogated its responsibility to be responsive in what are challenging times. Christian Schools Australia has been decisive in negotiating with the IEU and formalising an agreement which recognised the complex work of teachers, especially in COVID times.

Schools covered by the Christian Schools Australia Agreement

Belmont Christian College

Berowra Christian Community School

Brightwaters Christian College

Burrabadine Christian Community School

Calderwood Christian School

Casino Christian School

Cedars Christian College

Charlton Christian College

Coast Christian School

Covenant Christian School

Deniliquin Christian School

Dubbo Christian School

Green Point Christian College

Greenacre Baptist Christian Community School

Heritage Christian School

Hinterland Christian School

Hope Point Christian School

Hunter Christian School

Illawarra Christian School

Kuyper Christian School

Liberty Christian College

Maitland Christian School

Moree Christian School

Mountains Christian College

Nambucca Valley Christian Community School

Namoi Valley Christian School

Northcross Christian School

Norwest Christian College

Nowra Christian School

Orange Christian School

Oxford Falls Grammar School

Parkes Christian School

Penrith Christian School

Regents Park Christian School

Richmond Christian College

Snowy Mountains Christian School

Southern Highlands Christian School

St Andrew's Christian School

St George Christian School

Summerland Christian College

Taree Christian College

Toongabbie Christian College

Tyndale Christian School

Wagga Wagga Christian College

Wellington Christian School

Wycliffe Christian School

Wyong Christian Community School