Pay offer inches up in independent schools

Members would be aware that current Multi-Enterprise Agreements (MEAs) applying to independent schools in NSW and the ACT expired in January 2021. Given the disruption caused by COVID in 2020 and, as a result of further delays in 2021, bargaining for new Multi-Enterprise Agreements has proceeded at a glacial pace. Pay rises for 2021 have been determined on a school-by-school “discretionary” basis, with the majority of schools paying increases of 2% or more this year.

Totally unacceptable AIS offer (8 June)

On 8 June the AIS proposed the following pay rises for teachers and support staff in NSW and ACT independent schools:

  • 2.5% February 2022(inclusive of pay rises in 2021)
  • 1.25% February 2023
  • 1.25% February 2024

The union reported this to members in our June NewsExtra and described the above offer as totally unacceptable. We also advised the AIS of our position.

Slightly improved offer (17 June)

On 17 June 2021 the union received a revised pay offer:

  • 3% February 2022(inclusive of pay rises in 2021) plus super
  • 1.5% February 2023 plus super
  • 1.5% February 2024 plus super.

The references to “plus super” refer to the compulsory increases in superannuation of 0.5% which have been legislated for July 2021, July 2022, July 2023 and July 2024, taking total compulsory superannuation to 12% by July 2025.

The superannuation increases must be paid by law, separately from the MEA, so do not flow from the MEA, but are referred to so that the offer seems more generous. This offer of a total of 6% pay rises was therefore an overall increase on the previous offer of just 1% over the period from 2021-2024.

NSW public sector pay cap increased

In late June the NSW Government announced that it would revert to the long-standing public sector pay cap of 2.5%, rather thanthe much lower increases it had sought in 2020 (some NSW public servants only received pay rises of 0.3% in 2020). The cap of 2.5% means that total employee-related costs (that is, pay rises and superannuation increases) cannot increase by more than 2.5%.

Given the superannuation increases occur in July but teacher pay rates have generally increased at the beginning of the year, a pay cap of 2.5% has been equated to pay rises of 2.28% plus 0.5% increase in superannuation for teachers.

In light of the change in NSW government policy, the union immediately wrote to the AIS, asking them to reconsider their pay offer based on the improved wages outcome likely for teachers in NSW government and Catholic schools.

Further improved offer (25 June)

At a meeting held on 25 June immediately prior to the Greater Sydney lockdown, a further revised offer was tabled by the AIS:

  • 3.28% February 2022 plus super
  • 2.28% February 2023 plus super
  • 2.28% February 2024 plus super.

with the pay component to be increased if the superannuation increase does not proceed in a particular year. This offer totals 7.56% in pay rises. The union has indicated the pay rises for 2023 and 2024 would be acceptable as they are in the ballpark of the likely increases for public sector teachers.

Increase for 2022 still too low

Our concern is that staff in schools that paid 2% or 2.5% in 2021 would only get a tiny additional pay increase in 2022. Some schools may choose to top up the 0.5% or 1% increase, but this could not be enforced under the MEA by the union and would need to be negotiated by members at school level. The union has not yet resolved the impasse.

The union will report in detail to members when schools are back in Term 3.


The union has been disappointed with the AIS response to our claim for improved conditions and the “flexibilities” schools have requested in exchange for pay rises. However, discussions are continuing.