Wages negotiations last stumbling block
Negotiations for replacement collective agreements in both the NT Catholic and NT Lutheran sectors continue in 2022, with wages being the last major outstanding issue for members.
The NT Government has imposed a wage freeze policy over four years and is offering employees in the public sector a one-off ‘bonus’ of $10,000 – but this does not lift wage rates.
The Essington School is also set to commence bargaining this year, with members demanding the new collective agreement provide further clarification on teachers’ non-contact time.
The school’s current agreement specifies teaching hours and release time, with non-contact duties listed, but not part of a teacher’s ‘directed hours’. Improvements include specifying hours needed for professional duties such as staff meetings, professional development (PD) and supervision duties.
Last year, St Philip’s College members achieved wage increases for teachers equivalent to the 2.5% public sector increase.
The college’s Chapter also secured a clause stopping the employer discriminating due to religious doctrine – a positive outcome given employers can do this under the current NT Anti-Discrimination Act.
School officer classifications under review
The review of the school officer classification structure continues in 2022, with the Joint Working Group starting ‘job analysis’ to assess the workability of the new model.
Comprehensive and accurate position descriptions for school officer roles are of critical importance. Without these, it will be impossible to make accurate classification decisions to recognise the contemporary work school officers are undertaking.
Our union’s initial review of the adequacy of current position descriptions revealed alarming deficiencies. The IEU is undertaking detailed job analysis with a group of school officers to assess the reality of their roles fully. This process involves interviews with each school officer member and a comprehensive review of their duties, skills and responsibilities to develop a detailed job analysis.
Queensland Catholic school employers remain engaged in the review process. The current phase is crucial as the parties move towards a final assessment of the new model.
The timeline for the negotiation of replacement Queensland Catholic collective agreements will be a key consideration in formalising the new model and possible implementation in schools.
Staggered start to the year
SA schools settled for a graduated start to the year. The IEU’s preference would have been to delay all year levels for two weeks, but this was not to be.
Consequently, there was no time to establish the procedures and protocols for a safe return, particularly in the Catholic sector, where procedures are more standardised.
The staggered start and attendance of essential workers’ children raised the spectre of teachers being asked to teach in ‘dual mode’, that is, simultaneous face-to-face and online teaching or repeating the face-to-face lesson online at another time.
Government sector teachers were clear this would not occur, and our three sectors agreed. Even if parents demand online instruction for absent students, schools will have to say ‘no’.
We have established that supplying surgical masks is an employer’s WHS responsibility, but we are still in dispute over the applicability of the ‘Infectious Diseases’ clause in the Catholic sector.
The independent sector advice to schools is that claims should be accepted. Never has the need for elected Health and Safety Reps in each school been more evident.
Ventilation audits conducted by schools seem to consist of tallying rooms with windows, but no practical outcomes.
Union defeats pandemic opportunists
The IEU recorded two big succeses at Peninsula Grammar in February.
First, the school agreed to pay four IEU non-teaching staff members for the period they were stood down during the 2020 COVID lockdown.
The matter, due for a hearing in the Federal Court, was settled outside court, with Peninsula Grammar incurring six-figure legal costs after fighting for nearly two years.
“The total amount in dispute here was around $20,000 in wages for some of the lowest paid staff in the school,” said IEU Victoria Tasmania General Secretary Deb James.
The result sent a strong message to any school tempted to use the pandemic as an opportunity to cut staff wages. The IEU will pursue them doggedly to uphold the legal rights of our members.
Secondly, Peninsula Grammar was found guilty of “unconscionable conduct” after failing to honour fee discounts of $300,000 promised to a senior teacher with children at the school. The ruling should cost the school over $100,000 in payouts and legal fees.
James said the only financial impact of the pandemic on the school had been “the huge legal bills they’ve amassed trying unsuccessfully to squeeze their own employees out of their legitimate entitlements”.
New South Wales
Equity in accreditation
Workload issues are still high on the IEU’s priority list.
After years of lobbying by both the IEU and the NSW Teachers Federation, and the convergence of several key reports, the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is moving to address compliance regulations within school registration processes that impact on workloads.
These reports include the NSW Curriculum Review: Nurturing wonder and igniting passion (Masters Review, 2020); Valuing the teaching profession: An independent inquiry (Gallop Report, 2021); and Making time for great teaching: How better government policy can help (Grattan Institute Report, 2022)
NESA’s work is in its infancy, but will eventually affect the core teacher work of programming. The IEU will advocate strongly for the restoration of professional documentation that relies on line of sight, rather than narrative texts or detailed lesson plans that consume professional time.
Changes to the Teacher Accreditation Act will also result in proposed amendments to the role of schools and employer-based Teacher Accreditation Authorities. The aim is to improve consistency and provide a more equitable accreditation experience for teachers across sectors.
The IEU will advocate for transparent policies that bind employers to a streamlined model.
Our recent success reducing NCCD requirements (see p17) will be a strong reference point for consultation with employers and accrediting authorities.
School boards overstep
Independent schools are diverse in nature but almost all independent schools in Western Australia are governed by a board and headed by a chairperson.
Notwithstanding that a board’s primary role is to provide support and direction to the school, it has become apparent that boards are generally overstepping their boundaries. In WA, Independent School Boards have been seen to continuously and unjustifiably interfere in the day-to-day running of schools and school decisions.
This overstep has seen principals and staff bullied, harassed and treated unfairly. It has also led to breaches in staff contracts of employment as school boards often lack the required industrial understanding of the contractual framework educators work within.
Board-related issues have resulted in the IEUWA filing numerous claims in the Fair Work Commission in an attempt to mitigate the effects on our members.
Australian Capital Territory
Regulatory body to recognise early childhood teachers
The Teacher Quality Institute (TQI) has been consulting widely on how to provide professional registration for early childhood teachers — a commitment of the ACT Government.
TQI consultation sessions in 2021 focused on what regulatory framework would promote quality teaching in the early years and lead to better outcomes for children.
Participants supported a single register as the TQI doesn’t distinguish between primary and secondary teachers. Teachers are teachers. There was support for:
- a four-year qualification (or one that TQI recognises as equivalent); this would also take into account existing three-year trained teachers
- ECTs to meet the same professional learning requirements as teachers in schools (20 hours per year), and a need for appropriate professional learning
- guidance material to expand the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers to include ECTs
- keeping the TQI Code of Professional Practice the same while considering support for new graduates and those returning to teaching after a break.
Key issues to be resolved include support for teachers in early learning centres not attached to schools.