Present Tense

Award rate increases

From 1 July, all rates in the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award were increased, in line with the minimum wage increase of 1.75%. This increase was far below the increase called for by the ACTU and the IEU, and below the increases granted in each of the last few years. However, in the current environment, it is a healthy enough increase, one likely to be around (or even above) the inflation rate over the coming year.

Teacher rates on the award will range from $50,590.71 per annum (or $969.79 per week) on Level 1, to $66, 218.05 ($1269.36 per week) on Level 12. For casual teachers, the hourly rates will range from $48.46 to $63.43, with the Level 7 rate (closer to what most teachers should be getting) at $55.75. For General Staff, the rates now start at $41,086.47 on Level 1.1 rising to $70,106.78 for Level 7.2. Most administrative staff in private colleges would normally be Levels 3 or 4, with an annual salary around the $50,000 per annum mark.

Some colleges operate an enterprise agreement, which is a stand-alone document regulating pay and conditions at that workplace only. EAs typically provide for superior outcomes for staff. The Fair Work Act includes provisions for ‘good faith bargaining’, under which employees can compel their employer to commence bargaining for an EA. To find out how that might work at your college, contact the IEU.

Casuals and leave

In 2018, the Federal Court held in Workpac Pty Ltd v Skene that, in certain circumstances, long-term casual employees could claim paid leave, notwithstanding the previous understanding that casual loading compensated for this. In an attempt to get around this decision, Workpac attempted an alternate case to overturn it, but unfortunately for them, in Workpac Pty Ltd v Rossato [2020], the Federal Court upheld the decision in Skene. Workpac have sought leave to appeal this case to the High Court, but for now, the case law is clear that some casual employees are entitled to paid leave.

The implications for the post secondary college sector or obvious. ELICOS, Business and VET colleges routinely use casual workers across their operations, many of whom work in a regular and systematic fashion for years. These casuals are not being called in for relief or for short-term courses, but rather are being used in lieu of regular, ongoing employees, and so, on the face of it, could well come under the principles laid out in Skene and Rossato.

The IEU is currently examining the implications for how this might be applied in the post-secondary sector, but if you feel that you have a case, don’t hesitate to contact your union.

It is at times like these that IEU membership is more important than ever, and your union has welcomed hundreds of new members to the IEU family over recent months.

International students

The COVID-19 pandemic, and resultant border closures, has had a deleterious effect on the private college sector. This is not surprising, of course, as most colleges rely almost entirely on a steady stream of international students entering the country and enrolling in courses. The borders have been slammed shut since March, and will likely remain so for several more months, and until students are allowed back, it’s not clear how most colleges will continue to operate.

There has been an encouraging development on this front in recent weeks, with pilot programs at ANU and the University of Canberra allowing a small group of 350 international students to enter the country, ahead of studying next semester. If this program is successful, it may open the door for other providers to also get students to come to Australia to study, possibly as soon as the spring. There will still be quarantine requirements, of course, but it should be relatively simple to get students and other long-termers to factor in a 14-day quarantine into their stay. (STOP PRESS: This program has now been delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne).

Longer term, the prospects are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, Australia’s relative success at combating the virus (notwithstanding July’s spike in new cases in Melbourne) allows us to present as a ‘good news story’ and a safe destination. On the other hand, the Chinese Government, in response to geopolitical developments, has been putting pressure on its own citizens to not come to Australia, and given the importance of the Chinese market, that could yet have a huge dampening effect on numbers going forward.

IEU membership

It is at times like these that IEU membership is more important than ever, and your union has welcomed hundreds of new members to the IEU family over recent months.

Please encourage your colleagues to join, either over the phone (8202 8900), via email or online There are many broader benefits to IEU membership, and union fees are tax deductible. There is definitely safety in numbers!

Kendall Warren