Independent schools MEAs

Fair Work Commission gives the green light

The Fair Work Commission approved multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs) applying to teachers and support staff in more than 200 schools in early March.

The new MEAs replaced the 2017 MEAs that had expired on 31 January 2021. The union had commenced bargaining with the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) in late 2019 but the AIS withdrew from bargaining in 2020 due to COVID, and agreement was not reached between the union and the AIS until mid 2021.

Even though the AIS refused to recommend a standard pay rise from the start of 2021, almost all schools agreed to pay an increase in 2021, following pressure from the IEU and members. However, these increases varied across schools, and this caused some difficulty in reaching agreement on MEA rates for 2022 that would bridge the gap between the differing school-based increases in 2021.

Pay rises

The nominal percentage increases in the MEAs that were finally agreed between the union and the AIS were 3.5% in 2022 (inclusive of the increase for 2021), 2.5% in 2023, and 2.75% in 2024. These increases were then discounted because of the increases of 0.5% in the Superannuation Guarantee in July in each of those years, so the actual pay increases are 0.22% lower than the headline rates; that is, 3.28%, 2.28% and 2.53%.

Some schools will pay above the MEA rates, either because of arrangements that have been in place for some time or because the school provided a higher increase in 2021 and agreed not to absorb all of that increase against the 2022 rate.

A vote was conducted on the MEAs in November 2021, and was carried by employees at all schools with the exception of teachers at PLC Croydon.

Improved conditions

As well as pay increases, the recently made MEAs delivered a number of other improvements to conditions of employment.

Disaster leave: Each of the MEAs now includes paid emergency disaster leave of up to two days per year. While many employers argue that they provided such leave on an ex gratia basis (out of good will not a legal requirement), the union has experienced instances where employers have refused such leave or disputed the circumstances in which it ought to be granted – this is why codifying these provisions is important.

Notice of resignation: The maximum penalty that may be imposed if insufficient notice of resignation is given has been reduced in all MEAs (a maximum of two weeks’ pay in the case of teachers and one week in the case of support and operational staff).

Calendars: Each of the Teacher MEAs now includes a provision requiring schools to advise teachers by the end of Term 3 of the term dates and teacher attendance dates for the coming school year. The provision requires that any PD and meetings occur on the advised teacher attendance dates. Reasonable notice must be provided of all meetings and PD, with schools being required to give the maximum possible notice and, where practicable, they should be included in the school calendar.

Coordinator allowances for part-time teachers: Another change in the Teacher MEAs was the inclusion of specific provisions for the payment of coordinator allowances to part-time teachers on a proportionate basis. This will facilitate the appointment of part-time teachers to coordinator roles, but also ensures that such teachers get the full allowance if the coordinator role is not shared.

The Teacher MEAs now also require that part-time teachers are specifically advised on engagement of the percentage of a full-time teaching load they have been given. The school can only vary the teacher’s load or days of attendance by agreement, or in certain other limited circumstances.

Progression: In the Hybrid and Standards Model Teacher MEAs the timing of the band progression from Band 1 to Band 2 was changed to be immediate rather than only occurring twice a year. The Hybrid Model Teacher MEAs also now includes a Band 3 deeming provision for newly employed teachers from a school in which the award or agreement at their previous school did not contain the Band 3 ISTAA Experienced Teacher classification, provided they have eight or more years of service.

Hours of work for support and operational staff: A number of beneficial changes were made to the hours of work provisions in the Support and Operational Staff MEAs. Casual employees are now clearly entitled to overtime rates on top of casual loadings where work is performed outside of the span of ordinary hours; and part-time staff will have more flexible unpaid meal break provisions.

Boarding house staff: The averaging of hours of work for boarding house staff (whereby staff can work work more than 38 hours during a school term but have the time off during the holidays) will be more transparent and it will be easier to ensure staff do receive either the right time off or payment. Exceptions to the requirement for a school to pay on-call, recall and sleepover allowances to staff who stay on school premises overnight have also been tightened.

The union thanks members for their support during the extended bargaining process. Please do not hesitate to contact the Organiser for your school if you have a question about the new MEAs.