Independent schools: Bargaining gets under way

The IEU anticipates that bargaining for new multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs) will commence with the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) in coming weeks.

The IEU was anticipating the first meeting would be held on Wednesday 27 March, but this meeting has now been deferred. When we do meet, the AIS should give the union the list of schools involved in the bargaining. If your school is participating, the AIS has advised that you will receive a Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR).

Teacher pay

Rates of pay are clearly a major problem. Teacher pay rates in all MEAs have either dropped below other school sectors or lost the traditional premium when compared with pay rates in other school sectors. Four years with increases totalling 8% is simply not enough!

The MEAs were negotiated in the period when inflation was much lower than now, the public sector pay cap restricted pay rises, and schools were recovering from the disruption of COVID. In addition, bargaining rights for employees were more limited than those under the current Fair Work Act provisions.

Now it’s time for a major realignment!

Teachers under the Hybrid Model MEA are paid below NSW government and Catholic systemic teacher rates at all steps on the incremental scale. The starting rate for new graduates is $3000 below the government and Catholic systemic rate and the top rate for a teacher accredited as Proficient is $7000 below the comparable rate – and it takes longer to reach it.

The Independent Schools (Steps) Model MEA has similar problems to the Hybrid Model MEA.

The Standards MEA was historically touted as having the highest teacher pay rates in Australia. The top rate for a Proficient teacher is now a whopping $15,000 below the top Proficient rate in a NSW government school. Even the Band 3 rate only just scrapes in above the government and Catholic rate by $600 per annum.

Of course, this disparity will get worse in October this year, when NSW government and Catholic systemic teacher pay rates are expected to increase further.

Support staff pay

Rates of pay are again a problem. IEU analysis shows support and professional staff under the Support and Operational Staff MEA are paid below their colleagues in NSW government and Catholic systemic schools.

School assistants are typically paid $8000 per annum less in independent schools and administrative staff can be paid about $10,000 less. Registered psychologists are an extreme example, paid $30,000 less per annum than their colleagues in government schools. Other classifications are also disadvantaged.


We will be consulting with members to ensure conditions match those in other school sectors, including paid parental leave for primary care givers and their partners in particular.

Next steps

IEU organisers will be visiting schools in coming weeks to discuss the elements of our claim.

Please encourage all your colleagues to join the IEU, and make sure there is a union rep and chapter committee in your school. Our ability to bargain for the best possible pay and conditions across independent schools depends on our strength in each workplace.

Let’s use the new delegates’ rights and other recent improvements to industrial relations laws (read first article) to make sure this campaign really delivers for our members.