Protecting ourselves through difficult times

Over the past 12 months I have heard about several directors who have been made redundant when committees of management/boards restructure their services. Job descriptions for the director/nominated supervisor change to include things like MYOB, Excel, accounting experience – things we were not trained for but have usually acquired a basic knowledge of. Often these redundancies are not about restructuring at all. They are about replacing experienced staff with ‘cheaper’ staff in order to reduce fees.

They may be about philosophical differences, personality differences or over zealous committees taking too much control and making short term decisions without looking at the bigger picture. Whatever the reason many of us are starting to feel unsure of our futures and many early childhood teachers are making the decision to leave the sector before this can happen to them.

How can we protect ourselves? Make sure you are a paid up member of the IEU. They will assist you in these matters and make sure you receive all your entitlements and redundancy pay and also assist you in unfair dismissal claims. Keep detailed notes and don’t meet with committee members to discuss these issues without support.

The community based model for services can be fraught with difficulties. In most cases you only have committee members for a short period of time and they come with the best intention but have little knowledge of legislatory requirements or the National Quality Framework. Sometimes long term goals are lost in the here and now while committees try to maintain the viability of a service and do what is best for themselves.

The same can happen in private services when owner/operators are looking for bigger profit margins.

I see hugely experienced teachers and directors being lost to the sector because of this. I see teachers in fear of losing their jobs at a time in their life when they really need them. I see teachers suffering huge stress. I see teachers too scared to ask for pay increases when negotiating their enterprise agreements and accepting lower wages and poorer conditions.

This is why union membership is so important. Encourage your colleagues to join – the more members in a service the more bargaining power you have. When things are good teachers often wonder why they need to be a member of the union – it’s too late to join when things go wrong.

Gabe Connell
Vice President ECS