Independent schools: Talks under way but no offer yet from AIS

IEU representatives met with the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) on 13 May and 30 May 2024 to discuss the proposed new multi-enterprise agreements for teachers and professional and operational staff.

At our meeting on 30 May, we discussed details of the IEU claim (see article) and how pay and conditions of employees in independent schools compare with those of employees in other school sectors.

New MEA for teachers

The AIS has confirmed it intends to combine the three current multi-enterprise agreements (MEAs) – Standards, Hybrid, Steps Models – into one Teachers MEA.

The AIS provided very few details at the meeting about pay rates and other conditions under the MEA proposed by employers.

However, the AIS did state there will be one teacher pay scale reflecting the pay scale applying in NSW government schools and NSW Catholic schools.

This pay scale has two steps for Graduate Teachers (including conditionally accredited teachers) and five steps for Proficient Teachers (six steps are proposed for the ACT).

Additional allowances will apply for those who are Experienced Teachers as a result of the ISTAA process, and those who are Highly Accomplished.

The AIS did not reveal the pay rates it would offer.

The IEU is not opposed in principle to changes to the current pay scales, depending on the pay increases the AIS offers. However, there are clearly significant issues to be negotiated about how existing teachers are placed and paid on the new scale; as well as compensation for any teachers who may be disadvantaged as a result of the changes.

The union will closely scrutinise the transition from the current three-steps Standards Model to a new seven-step pay scale. Safeguards will also be essential for teachers currently at Band 3 Experienced Teacher under both the Standards Model and the Hybrid Model.

The union understands that the ISTAA process will continue and provide for additional remuneration for teachers who complete the process. We are therefore advising members who have initiated applications to follow through with them.

At the meeting, the AIS did not provide a response to our claims about conditions (see article), nor had the AIS provided any information about changes in conditions that school employers may seek.

New MEA for professional and operational staff

The union spoke at length about comparisons in pay for employees in independent schools with the pay of employees in other school sectors.

The union considers that pay rates should be increased and that employees should be able to progress more easily between classifications and steps to higher rates of pay.

The classifications are difficult to apply in many cases because they are unclear and open to interpretation, so staff are reluctant to apply for higher classifications.

We also raised member concerns about work health and safety in special schools and the high level of responsibility and demands these members face.

Improved leave was also a key issue under discussion.

The AIS has undertaken to consider the detailed evidence we provided on the pay disparities for the groups we identified (almost all classifications) but no response was provided at the meeting.

Next steps

The next bargaining meeting is scheduled for 17 June. The AIS has so far been silent on specific matters, and the union will be pressing them to provide details for discussion so we can progress our members’ claim.

In the meantime, we urge you to discuss the claim with your colleagues and invite them to join the IEU. There is real strength in numbers.