The IEU has begun bargaining for new multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs) for teachers and professional, administrative and operational staff in independent schools represented by the Association of Independent Schools (AIS).

After consulting extensively with members in recent weeks, the IEU’s claim calls on employers to: fix your pay; address your workloads; boost parental leave; improve leave for professional, administrative and operational staff; and guarantee fair processes.

The union met with the AIS on Wednesday 29 May (for full details).

Restore the pay premium for teachers

Teachers in NSW government schools and Catholic systemic schools achieved unprecedented pay rises of 8% in 2023, and some independent schools agreed to extra pay increases above their current multi-enterprise agreement rates.

However, these increases were often quite small, and some schools did not increase pay rates at all.

Many teachers in independent schools are now paid less than teachers in NSW government schools and Catholic systemic schools, and others only just above. Teachers in AIS schools have previously enjoyed a premium of 5% to 7%, but this has now all but disappeared.

A better deal for professional, admin, operational staff

When we compare pay rates under the Independent Schools NSW (Support and Operational Staff) MEA with rates applying to NSW Catholic systemic and government schools, we find staff in AIS schools are paid below their comparator at all points of the pay scale.

Conditions for these staff do not match those applying in Catholic schools. We are calling for improvements to long service leave and personal/carer’s leave.

Addressing teacher workloads

The NSW government, NESA, the federal government and many Catholic school employers have all acknowledged the workload pressures both new and experienced teachers face.

However, independent school employers fail to recognise the gravity of this problem and refuse to take coordinated measures to reduce teacher workloads.

The IEU is calling on independent school employers to agree to:

  • establish school-based committees to identify ways to reduce workloads
  • develop school-based standards on face-to-face teaching hours, release time, the number of meetings, duties, extras, and expected days of attendance including at weekends, to provide transparency and certainty for teachers
  • ensure full implementation of the new right to disconnect provisions •ensuring work requirements do not exceed those set out in government fact sheets (NESA Fact Sheet; NCCD Evidence Fact Sheet; and the AITSL Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework Fact Sheet, see liftout, pages 8-11).

Many teachers in independent schools are now paid less than teachers in NSW government schools and Catholic systemic schools.

Parental leave

Parental leave provided in independent schools falls below that provided in other school sectors in a range of ways, both for mothers and fathers.

Female employees are currently entitled to paid maternity leave or adoption leave of 14 weeks, but the AIS considers this to mean that the period of paid leave does not count as service for other leave (except annual leave) and pay progression.

In contrast, in both NSW Catholic systemic schools and government schools, paid parental leave accrues other leave and pay progression. Also, a total of 12 months parental leave (including the 14 weeks) counts as service for pay progression.

In the Australian Capital Territory, employees in Catholic and government schools are entitled to 24 weeks paid parental leave.

The union also believes superannuation should be payable on paid parental leave.

Independent schools have also consistently denied access to paid parental leave to fathers who wish to take on primary childcare responsibilities after the birth of their child (instead of the mother). In other sectors, the entitlement is to “paid parental leave” not “paid maternity leave”.

Catholic and government schools also provide substantially better paid parental leave to non-initial primary carers (usually the father) who assume the role of primary carer in the first 12 months after birth or adoption, after a period of care by the mother.

Fathers who are non-initial primary carers are entitled to 12 weeks paid leave, in addition to the two weeks of concurrent leave taken at the time of birth or in the first 12 months. In comparison, independent schools only provide fathers with two weeks of concurrent leave at or around the time of birth or adoption.

Fair processes

The union is calling for fair processes for all employees to be enshrined in your MEAs, consistent with 2024 expectations. These include:

  • promotion appointments should be merit-based, in accordance with fair documented processes
  • transparent procedures to apply for flexible work arrangements
  • a right to have the Fair Work Commission determine workplace disputes
  • workload requirements to be set out clearly for all teachers, and
  • no discrimination on the grounds of gender or disability.

What you can do

Has the union chapter at your school endorsed the claim and returned it to the union? Although most chapters have done this, we urge all remaining chapters to send them to us.

We also invite members to raise any matters they consider are missing from the claim.

The most important thing you can do is talk to your colleagues about this claim for pay and conditions and urge them to join the union so they have a say.

Remember that under new provisions of the Fair Work Act, union delegates (that is, elected IEU reps) have the right to reasonably communicate with union members and employees who are eligible to become members, including through email. This makes crystal clear your right to talk union business at work.

If your school does not have a rep, consider electing a rep and a chapter committee – it helps to spread the word if you form a union team at your school, preferably involving both teachers and support staff.