Union fights burden on support staff

Undertaking this course restricts my ability to supplement my income and provides no more than the capacity to retain my current position, if funding allows.

The ACT Government Report, Schools for All Children and Young People by Professor Anthony Shaddock, included a recommendation that Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) in all ACT schools undertake a Certificate IV in Education Support. Catholic Education has adopted the recommendation, affecting LSAs in all Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn schools.

The Shaddock report was a response to the controversy over the so called ‘child in a cage’ scandal, in which an autistic child was apparently kept confined at a school.

However, the consequence for LSAs is that they are required to undertake 120 hours of training to achieve Cert IV in their own time.

IEU Assistant Secretary Mark Northam said it was unreasonable for workers not to be compensated for this time.

“We are worried that too much of a burden is being placed on LSAs who are often employed part time,” Mr Northam said.

“Sometimes, LSAs have to work extra jobs to make ends meet. They have caring responsibilities too. This evening class will eat into their family time and put undue pressure on them,” he said.

“It’s yet another example of the unintended consequences of a government report.”

Although Catholic Education will cover the cost of the course, it does not plan to pay LSAs for the hours of study they will have to undertake in their own time.

“The IEU's view is that our members should be provided pay to undertake the training,” Mr Northam said.

LSA Karen Norley said the requirement was “a serious change to our contract of employment”.

“We need to complete an 18 month course which requires two night attendance per week 4pm-7pm,” Karen said.

“Personally I have a second job and work six days a week, I am not willing to give up any more of my family time to proceed with a traineeship that does not seem to give me any further qualification.

“I believe I will receive a piece of paper to say that I can do the job I have been doing for the past seven years.

“Not only do I have to comply, I am still not guaranteed a job at the end of the course or while I’m doing the course.

“At this point in time I cannot and will not be doing the traineeship, so I am out of a job.”

LSA Tiffeney Ronneberg said she agrees with the report and that all students deserve an educated and professional LSA. But the proposed timeline and requirements of the course are unreasonable.

“Undertaking this course in its present form restricts my ability to supplement my income and provides no more than the capacity to retain my current position, if funding allows,” Tiffeney said.

At June Council the Monaro Branch passed a motion condemning the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn’s position, and calling on the director to review the diocesan position as a matter of urgency.

The IEU has also called for an urgent meeting with ACT Education Minister Shane Rattenbury to discuss the matter further.