Why the AIS is out of step

The current multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs) for teachers in some 220 independent schools expire on 31 January 2021.

The Association of Independent Schools (AIS) met with the IEU on 6 December 2019 and indicated that the process to develop new multi-enterprise agreements for these 220 schools would be fast paced.

However, it is now difficult to believe that respective school employers forwarded the Notice of Employee Representational Rights to employees in November 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its many implications stymied the negotiation process. But COVID is not an excuse to not bargain in good faith.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its many implications stymied the negotiation process. But COVID is not an excuse to not bargain in good faith.

Where are we up to?

As this edition of Newsmonth goes to press, the AIS has contacted the IEU to agree on a series of meeting dates up to 17 December 2020 and rolling into 2021. This is a direct result of member action.

What does the Fair Work Act say about bargaining?

In essence, parties must meet, disclose relevant information and respond in a timely manner. Simply saying "we are meeting but are not prepared to talk percentage increases" is unreasonable.

Agreements have been reached for Catholic Systemic Schools (2.28%), and Catholic Independent Schools (2.28%). The IEU and Christian Schools Australia have reached agreement on the following increases: 2.3% in 2021; 2.3% in 2022; and 2.5% in 2023. This agreement proceeds to a vote commencing on 2 November.

AIS out of step with other sectors

Put simply, the AIS is out of step with all other educational sectors. The AIS’s position is that individual schools should determine what their payments might be. This approach is not conducive to the wellbeing of multi-enterprise agreements which set common expectations across NSW and the ACT.

A plethora of outcomes does not assist independent schools – centrally determined salary outcomes provide certainty. Uniform conditions (set out in the MEAs) provide a structure that is conducive to staff movement between schools and a common understanding of conditions.

However, the AIS, in its role as bargaining representative, is making no pay offer at all. Many schools are not facing enrolment issues and most schools are not disadvantaged by the recent government funding change, called Direct Measure of Income (DMI). Overall, the government states the new funding mechanism will deliver more funding to non-government schools, not less: $3.4 billion extra over 2020-29.

Government funding is anticipated to be indexed by at least 3% in 2021 and all schools are quarantined from any negative impact from DMI until 2022. The government is also providing independent schools with an additional $1.3 billion in the Choice and Affordability Fund over 2020-29 to assist in the transition to the new DMI funding. Payments commenced in July this year.

The IEU took the unprecedented step of writing to principals and heads of school, setting out the salary outcomes other sectors are agreeing to and calling for the AIS to engage in genuine bargaining. This strategy has assisted IEU chapter reps and members when meeting with their principal.

Union reps, chapters and chapter committees have been engaging with their principals and taking their concerns forward. For this, the union is deeply grateful.

‘Discretionary’ outcomes are not synonymous with an MEA.

Teachers and support staff meet and agree

Organisers attending IEU chapter meetings are reporting solid attendance and a commonality of thinking among members. Members are expressing regret that employers have articulated such strong gratitude for their expertise and agility in managing the COVID-19 pandemic – while simultaneously saying salary outcomes cannot be negotiated. Members find this perplexing.

To say that schools have turned themselves inside out to manage COVID is an understatement. Distributing a Notice of Representational Rights in November 2019 and finally agreeing to a series of meetings in November 2020 is not indicative of good faith bargaining. But action by members has already altered the initial position adopted by the AIS.

It is worth revisiting the key features of what we are seeking in the MEAs.

Standards Model

Easier access to Band 3 (Experienced Teacher classification).

Increase in Band 2 (Proficient Teacher pay rate which is currently $99,000 – this is well below the 2021 top pay rate for Proficient Teachers in government schools of $108,000).

Hybrid model

Compression of six steps in Band 2 Proficient to become five steps consistent with government school and Catholic systemic pay scales.

Band 3 Experienced Teacher salary rate should also be increased to the Standards Model Band 3 rate.

Other issues

School calendar clause that would require schools to publish all meetings, major events and other required attendances by no later than Week 2 of Term 1.

Support staff

Support staff pay rises of not less than 2.5% per annum over three years PLUS increases as may be necessary to reflect increases to comparable rates in government schools.

See the full claim on website www.ieu.asn.au