Pay claim for teachers and educators

Wages and conditions for many early childhood teachers and educators remain below those of corresponding professionals in other sectors.

The top pay step under the Educational Services (Teachers) Modern Award (the modern award) for a teacher accredited/registered as Proficient who is not a Director or Educational Leader employed in a preschool/kindergarten is $82,152 and $85,438 for a teacher employed in a long day care centre.

This compares to the market rate of over $100,000 for a teacher employed in a government or non-government school (for example $113,000 in a NSW government or Catholic systemic school in January 2023). Pay rates for teachers in schools are themselves below those of professionals with similar qualifications in other sectors. A report by Professor John Buchanan of Sydney University in January 2023 entitled From bad to worse to what? NSW Teachers Pay 2020-2022 and Beyond found: “The most significant development has been continuation of the 30-year slide in teachers’ pay compared to that of all professionals considered as a group. In 1986, female teachers earned 102 per cent of the ‘all professional females’ average. In the same year, male teachers earned 99 per cent of the ‘all professional males’ average. In 2021 the situation of 2018 continued: female teachers earned 93.5 per cent and men earned 83.3% per cent of this average”.

For teachers in early childhood education and care (ECEC), it is even more difficult to achieve pay rises than for teachers in schools. The small workplaces, the voluntary management model in many not-for-profit services, the dominance of for-profit services in long day care and the commitment of staff to their children and families are all factors that make it hard for staff to raise issues about their own pay and conditions. For employees in the federal industrial relations system, such as teachers and educators in ECEC, the best way to achieve pay rises is by enterprise bargaining, but under current rules this requires negotiations employer by employer.

New IR legislation step towards a solution

At the end of 2022, the federal Labor Government passed a series of amendments to the main workplace legislation, the Fair Work Act, which were described as the Secure Jobs Better Pay amendments.

These changes permit unions to bargain more effectively, including in workplaces where it is difficult to bargain because of a lack of skills, resources, bargaining strength or previous bargaining experience. Under the ‘supported bargaining’ stream, the Fair Work Commission provides additional assistance to negotiating parties to reach an enterprise agreement. The changes are expected to come into effect from July this year.

Unions (including the IEU) have been in discussions with ECEC employers about how the legislation could apply to our sector. The United Workers Union is seeking pay increases of 25 per cent above the modern award, as part of a supported bargaining enterprise agreement.

Unions have also been in discussion with the federal government about whether there would be an increase in federal funding provided to parents through the Child Care Subsidy to meet the additional cost. As state governments fund preschools/kindergartens, they also need to be part of the conversation.

Existing enterprise agreements

Many members may be in workplaces where enterprise agreements approved by the Fair Work Commission already apply. Some of these may have passed the nominal expiry date specified in the agreement, others may have some years to run.

The unions will be reviewing how existing enterprise agreements compare in terms of pay and conditions to what we expect will apply in a supported bargaining enterprise agreement. Although we are seeking pay rates well above the modern award, conditions (such as personal/carer’s leave, redundancy pay, non-teaching time and long service leave) in the new supported bargaining enterprise agreement may be like conditions under the modern award and legislation. However, existing IEU agreements may contain conditions well above the modern award.

If you are covered by an enterprise agreement, please make sure you know how your agreement compares to industry standards and the modern award.

Because the unions are seeking increased funding from government as part of supported bargaining, large employers and peak ECEC organisations have been enthusiastic in engaging in these discussions.

A note for Queensland members

In Queensland, most community kindergartens have a collective enterprise agreement, and almost all agreements contain teacher rates of pay at (or near) the community standard for teacher rates.

While members in Queensland kindergartens support the wage claims (and claims for additional funding) being pursued by the unions, the benefit for individual employees in Queensland may not be as great as for employees in other states.

IEU membership crucial

Please encourage anyone employed in ECEC eligible to join the IEU who has not yet joined the union, to do so. Also speak to colleagues in other centres who have not joined or have let their membership lapse. To get the best possible result in this new process, maximum membership support is essential.

Keep your eyes out for special union events explaining the campaign to members. These discussions are fast-moving – and members are best-placed placed to benefit.

Join the NSW/ACT Facebook page

IEUA NSW/ACT Branch runs a Facebook page dedicated to early childhood teachers, where we post important information about how your union represents you as well as the latest news and research in early childhood education. Members are encouraged to join the group and post questions, information and respond to the information on the page. ECEC Organisers (Lisa James, Kate Damo and Tina Smith) respond to your questions about your rights and entitlements in the workplace. To join our ECEC Facebook community, you can use the QR code or contact your organiser, who will send you an invitation to join the group.

2023 ECTA Early Childhood Conference

The 48th annual Early Childhood Teachers’ Association (ECTA) Early Childhood Conference is set to take place on Saturday, 24 June 2023.

Registrations are now open for the hybrid event, with participants able to participate via video link or in person at St Peters Lutheran College, Indooroopilly (Brisbane). Christopher Phoenix will deliver a keynote presentation on ‘How to think like a philosopher’.

IEU members working in early childhood education are encouraged to join or renew their ECTA membership before registering for the conference to access the discounted conference price.

ECTA conferences provide practical workshops for professionals across all early childhood education sectors. Attendees will have access to recordings of all ECTA Conference sessions, with a total of 28 presentations scheduled.

For more information about the conference, including workshop and presenter details, conference timetable and to register visit https://ecta.org.au/event/2023conference/

HELP debt waiver for teachers in very remote areas

Applications have now opened for a federal government scheme to reduce and waive HELP debt for Australian teachers working in very remote areas.

IEU teacher members employed (and those intending to work) in very remote areas are encouraged to apply for the scheme.

The scheme has two parts, the first of which began in 2019 and allows teachers to apply to have the indexation on their accumulated HELP debt waived.

The second, which opened in 2023, allows applicants to apply for a broader reduction of their HELP debt.

Both types of assistance are available to teachers who are/were teaching in very remote areas of Australia, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Remoteness Structure, including at a preschool/kindergarten.

To be eligible, teachers must complete four years of full-time teaching in a very remote location, with the average debt reduction for eligible teachers expected to be around $35,000.

Teachers must also have completed their initial teacher education qualification for their eligibility to commence and have a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP debt related to that qualification.

For more information and to apply or check eligibility, visit https://www.dese.gov.au/higher-education-loan-program/reduction-higher-education-loan-program-help-debts-teachers-very-remote-areas