Present tense

Shaping up for another wild ride

Welcome back to another year of Present Tense, your window into the world of English, Business and VET post secondary colleges. We hope you’ve had some rest over the summer, because 2020 is shaping up to be another wild ride!

The industrial basics

Do you know your basic rights? Employment in the post secondary sector is largely governed by the provisions of the industry award, the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2010.

Like all awards, it covers your basic entitlements of pay, leave, and hours of work. Award annual permanent salaries range from $50, 591.71 at Level 1 to $66,218.05, while casual employees are also entitled to a loading of 25% (all pay rates are adjusted each July). As of last year, there is also a casual conversion clause, allowing casual employees to convert their employment to ongoing.
Many colleges routinely underpay award rates (how many times have you been informed at a new college that they ‘only pay Step 4’?), but the legal position is that you are entitled to be paid the correct award wage, and indeed, it is unlawful for parties to ‘contract out’, or agree to be paid less. Of course, in practice, it can be hard to insist, so make sure you keep all your pay slips –underpayments may be claimed for up to six years after the fact, and the IEU regularly claims back payments on behalf of members worth thousands of dollars.

Other sources of your employment rights come from the Fair Work Act and the National Employment Standard (which sets the minimum standards for all jobs across a range of areas), as well as the provisions of any individual employment contract that you sign. Remember, though, that your conditions of employment cannot legally be lower than what is laid out in the NES or in your award – so know your rights!

Your union has negotiated enterprise agreements with around 15 different colleges, and these agreements provide for pay that is around 8% to 20% higher than the rates in the award.

Enterprise agreements

Many employers also offer improved pay and conditions in an enterprise agreement. Agreements substitute for the award and must offer arrangements that are ‘better off overall’ than the award for the employees that come under it.

Your union has negotiated enterprise agreements with around 15 different colleges, and these agreements provide for pay that is around 8% to 20% higher than the rates in the award, as well as better conditions for leave, hours or work, casual conversion, and limits on insecure work.

The IEU is currently negotiating with several colleges, including WSU the College, SELC, and Navitas English ACT, and we have recently finalised agreements at Navitas English Services, and EC English (formerly Embassy English).The Fair Work Act includes provisions pertaining to ‘good faith bargaining’, under which an employer can be compelled to bargain when it can be demonstrated that a majority of their employees (or group of employees, such as teachers) wish for that to happen. To find out how this might work at your college, contact your union on

Unfair dismissal
Another area where your union is kept busy in the post secondary sector is in the field of unfair dismissal. Job security is often precarious in the industry, with casual contracts and other forms of insecure work common. However, even casual and temporary employees can be eligible for unfair dismissal protection, so long as they have been employed for at least six months, can demonstrate ‘regular and systematic’ work, and can reasonably have expected the work to continue.Most unfair dismissal applications are resolved well before the matter reaches a full legal hearing, and most members express satisfaction with the outcome. You might think that this will never happen to you, but in truth, there are many dodgy employers in the post secondary college world, and you never know when your time is coming.

Union membership

The IEU is greatly restricted by union rules from giving assistance to non members, or to new members who have joined with problem that arose prior to joining. It can be instructive to think of union membership like insurance – if your house burns down, you won’t be able to get insurance for it the day after, and the same principle applies for unions. What’s more, there are many broader benefits to IEU membership, and union fees are tax deductible. So don’t take the risk – join your union today!

Kendall Warren