More than 540 IEU chapters in Catholic systemic schools across NSW and the ACT have decided to engage in Protected Industrial Action to push back on excessive workload and gain salary increases beyond the NSW Government’s punitive 2.5% salary cap.
How did we get to this point?
Putting aside COVID, it’s been obvious for a while that to continue as is, in terms of salary and conditions, is to erode educational quality and to make teaching an unattractive career.
The model of delivery is many decades old. Teacher preparation time must be reconfigured to capture the reality of education in the 2020s. The inexorable drift to personalised education and reporting on it demands increased professional time.
To expect different outcomes without evolving the model is an exercise in futility.
Employers in recent weeks offered one additional pupil-free day in 2022 to assuage IEU member concerns. This won’t cut it. Teams of teachers working professionally and collaboratively require consistent, scheduled, additional release time.
Pay cap unfair
The NSW Government has passed legislation limiting public sector pay rises to a maximum of 2.5%. This pay cap has now been in place for 11 years and must be removed. Catholic school employers consider themselves bound by this pay cap in the current bargaining even though it doesn’t legally apply.
The cap’s existence is a constraint on the economy and IEU members view it as a blunt instrument that is incongruent with an industrial relations system that has levers to determine what are fair salaries and wages.
As the IEU heads toward industrial action, it is appropriate to note that such decisions are not taken lightly. The ramifications are considerable but for matters to continue as they are is not viable.
Support staff have a very specific burr under their saddle: the reluctance of employers to match salaries paid to support staff in government schools. This is a long-standing grievance.
There is no quick fix. It takes a long time to increase the supply of new teachers. Retention rates will improve if salaries and conditions match the expectations of the profession. Governments also need to trust teachers to operate as professionals in a complex work environment.
Join your colleagues in taking protected action, support the profession, enhance educational outcomes, and gain conditions and salaries that the school communities you serve believe are overdue. It’s time to restore goodwill.