Present tense: Award pay rises

As flagged in the last edition of Present Tense, the Fair Work Commission has raised all award pay rates by 3.5%, in line with the increase announced to the national minimum wage. The new rates took effect on 1 July.

For employees dependent on award wages, this provides a significant improvement in their pay. The annual salaries are now worth between $49,117.19 (for Level 1) and $64,289.37 (Level 12), up from the 2017 range of $47,456.22 - $62,115.33. For casual employees, the rates for Level 2, for example, are now $238.37 per day and $47.67 per hour (up from $230.31 and $46.06 respectively), Level 7 is now at $270.64 and $54.18 (previously $261.49 and $52.30), and Level 11 is now at $300.78 and $60.15 (previously $290.60 and $58.12).

Check your pay slips and make sure that your employer is passing on these increases.

Enterprise bargaining update

As nice as these award increases are, employees are always better off when covered by an enterprise agreement, and your Union has recently signed off on two agreements, both of which offer significant improvements.

At Taylor’s College Academic English Program (AEP, formerly known as TELP), teachers have endorsed a settlement offering salary increases of 2.5% in 2018, 2.75% in 2019, and 3% in each of 2020 and 2021. The new agreement will also include provisions for the conversion to permanent of casual and sessional employment, and notice periods for casual employees.

At EF, employees will soon be receiving annual salary increases of 2.25%, along with improvements to their lecture payments, syllabus creation payments, and longer term sessional contracts up to one year. Teachers will vote on this agreement in the next few weeks, with the new agreement to commence in October.

It’s worth noting ongoing wage stagnation in Australia and elsewhere means that the Wages Price Index (a broad measure of average pay increases) has been around the 2% mark for over two years now, so these increases are ahead of the curve.

Your Union has also commenced negotiations with Navitas English, and some progress has been made in tidying and redrafting the existing agreement. It’s probably safe to say that the aims of your Union and those of the employer are still some way apart, but we remain confident that an agreement can be struck by the end of the year.

Negotiations will soon commence at Embassy, Taylor’s College, UoW College, Sydney College of English, Access Language Centre and Universal. If you currently work at one of those colleges, start thinking about what you might like to see included in discussions.

Enterprise agreements typically provide for superior salaries and conditions than what applies in the award, and the Fair Work Act contains provisions which can compel an employer to negotiate for one. To find out how this might work at your College, contact your Union, the IEU.

Change the Rules

Regular readers will know that the IEU is a big supporter of the ACTU’s campaign to Change the Rules. While there are some good things about Australia’s industrial relations system, overall the rules are slanted too much in favour of employers, making it too difficult to achieve regular significant improvements to salaries and conditions.

One of the aims of the ACTU’s campaign is to reintroduce industry wide bargaining, which used to be norm 30 years or more ago. The current emphasis on enterprise bargaining (ie employer by employer) means that too many workplaces miss out and are reliant on the award safety net.

Support for this aim has come from an unlikely source, with the OECD’s recent Economic Outlook report arguing that countries with “bargaining systems that co-ordinate wages across sectors tend to be linked with lower wage inequality”. The OECD is hardly a bastion of left wing unionists, but they are joining a growing chorus of ‘respectable’ opinion in seeking solutions to the worldwide wages drought.

Now, if we can get the Labor Party to commit to serious reform in this area, we might start seeing some improvements.

Kendall Warren