Lisa James

A long and difficult road ends in success

The enterprise agreement (EA) for a community-based preschool run by a local church reached its nominal expiry date and members contacted the IEU to request that we write to their employer seeking to commence negotiations for a new EA.

The IEU wrote to the president of the management committee that month, who indicated they were meeting with their representative due to a lack of expertise with EAs.

Three months later bargaining commenced, and the IEU gave the management committee our Log of Claims. Agreement on conditions was reached and although the initial pay offer was rejected by members, employees later accepted an improved pay offer from the employer.

The management committee indicated their representative would draft the agreement. The IEU wrote to the committee requesting a copy of the draft agreement on several occasions. However, no draft agreement was forthcoming.

The IEU then sought to schedule further bargaining meetings. Unfortunately, the committee indicated that no meetings would be scheduled. The IEU wrote to them citing their failure to meet good faith bargaining provisions by refusing to attend meetings, and they promptly withdrew from the bargaining process.

The IEU continued to write to the committee seeking to recommence bargaining but no progress was made as they failed to respond to the IEU’s letters.

Our members continued to indicate their dissatisfaction with the lack of progress on behalf of their employer. The IEU had no choice but to lodge a bargaining dispute with the Fair Work Commission (FWC). This resulted in a bargaining meeting between the union, the employer’s legal representative and the committee president within two weeks of the FWC case conference.

Subsequently, the committee’s representative agreed to annual increases of 4% to pay and allowances, three-year trained teachers at the preschool to be paid on the higher four-year trained pay scale, 10 hours of paid leave for teachers to attend NESA accredited training, employer to pay for mandatory and approved training and employees to access pro-rata long service leave after 7.5 years.

Members unanimously accepted the offer and most employees voted in favour of the new enterprise agreement, which is awaiting approval from the FWC. This is a big win for members in this preschool.

Paid lunch breaks

The IEU was contacted by a member employed in a long day care centre operated by a Local Health District (LHD) under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health to ask about whether lunch breaks should be paid. The early childhood teachers at the centre were rostered on 8.5 hour shifts with an unpaid lunch break and a paid 20-minute tea break.

IEU Organiser Lisa James advised that the Teachers’ (NSW health Early Childhood Service Centres) Salaries and Miscellaneous Conditions Award 2022 specifies that teachers receive a paid midday crib break. The IEU then wrote to Human Resources in the relevant LHD and advised them that IEU members had no agreement in writing for unpaid lunch breaks for teachers at their workplace. The union stated that as this is the case, teachers are entitled to paid lunch breaks as per clause 4.1 of the award, which states:

“Not more than 30 minutes nor less than 20 minutes shall be allowed to teachers each day for a midday paid crib break. Such crib break shall be counted as time worked.

“Provided however that a teacher may, by agreement with the employer, leave the premises or elect not to be on call during the crib break. Where a reasonable request has been made by the teacher, the employer shall give favourable consideration to any such request. During this time, the teacher cannot be counted as part of the child/ staff ratios under the Education and Care Services National Regulations. Such time away from the premises or not on call shall not count as time worked nor shall any payment be made for such time.

“However if the teacher is called back to perform any duties within the centre of the break and it is interrupted for any reason, the teacher shall be paid at time and a half for a minimum of 15 minutes and thereafter to the nearest quarter hour until an uninterrupted break or the balance of the break is taken.

“Notation: It is agreed between the parties that any agreement between the teacher and the employer concerning an unpaid crib break must be genuine. For example, a teacher cannot be required by the employer to agree to an unpaid crib break as a condition of employment. Any agreement should be recorded in writing and kept with pay records.”

As a result, members are in the process of receiving a significant amount of backpay for their unpaid lunch breaks. The IEU has written to other LHD centres to ascertain whether teachers are paid for their lunch breaks.