Time for action in independent schools

Last year we saw unprecedented pay increases for teachers and support staff in government and Catholic systemic schools.

Catholic and Christian schools pay up

Teachers in NSW government and Catholic systemic schools who have Proficient Teacher accreditation now progress automatically to $122,000, an increase of 8% from the previous top rate of $113,000. In the ACT, the top Proficient Teacher pay rate is now $119,000.

Support staff in Catholic systemic schools also gained big increases, with a senior administrative employee now receiving more than $100,000 a year (unaveraged and discounted for term breaks), and an experienced learning support assistant earning over $88,000 (unaveraged).

Following implementation of the increases for teachers in Catholic systemic schools in October 2023, over 40 NSW Catholic independent schools also reached agreement after robust bargaining with the IEU.

Six multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs) were finalised with three groups of schools. Under all six agreements, the pay increases for teachers and support staff were substantial. Parental leave was also improved with a range of other improvements for each group.

In Term 4 2023, the IEU also reached agreement with nearly 25 Christian schools represented by the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AIS). These schools agreed to match the NSW government teacher pay rises from February 2024, with improved parental leave and natural disaster leave for both teachers and support staff.

These increases took effect in a wages environment in 2023 that was very different from previous years. In 2023, inflation raged up to 7%, the Fair Work Commission increased minimum award wages by 5.75% in July and
the NSW Labor Government abolished the public sector pay cap.

What about independent schools?

The AIS refused to bargain centrally with the IEU concerning pay increases in 2023 because the teacher and support staff MEAs negotiated with the union in 2021 do not expire until 31 January 2025.

These MEAs were negotiated in the period when inflation was lower, the public sector pay cap suppressed pay rises for NSW government teachers to 2.5% (including superannuation), and schools were recovering from the disruption of the Covid pandemic. Bargaining rights for employees were also far more limited than those under the current provisions in the Fair Work Act. The union expects bargaining will commence in Term 1 this year.

It is time for independent schools to match the pay rises in other education sectors. More than 100 schools have made additional payments to match the public sector increases, but many schools have not, and the amount of the payments varies widely.

Some schools that have already paid increases may try to offset these payments against later increases. Despite the few well-publicised schools paying well above government school pay rates and above the MEA rates, many schools pay rates for employees generally at or below the rates applying in government schools.

See our list of additional payments by school.

Conditions in independent schools are also lagging well behind those in government and Catholic schools.

The IEU will be contacting members in coming weeks and consulting about priorities for our claim.

Key to a successful outcome is a high level of union membership in every school. Unions also have new rights under the Fair Work Act that strengthen our ability to bargain effectively for MEAs. A priority will be ensuring our reps understand how we can wield these rights effectively.

Your organiser will be touch early in Term 1 to arrange a school visit.