Quest for gold continues

Carolyn Collins
Vice President Support Staff

The Rio Games are over, but our quest for gold continues. Many days in our working environments are golden, whereas, getting over the finish line sometimes seems insurmountable.

Workloads for both teachers and school support staff are increasing. School support officers’ roles have evolved and changed over the past 30 years. Yet some basic issues remain.

An issue imposing itself on our working lives is work related stress due to job insecurity, expectations, extra responsibilities being added and more complex duties. Stress is a significant health and safety issue and is important for employers to recognise and respond to it.

It could be as simple as monitoring emails. Emails are put into the extra workload category, with the expectations to have read them, responded to them right away and enacted on them. Many of us don’t have the luxury or the inclination to be near a computer to receive these emails.

There needs to be a reasonable time frame to deal with them and certainly only Monday to Friday. Consultation with staff should be sought when establishing reasonable times. It can be a win-win if consultation is done and is regularly reviewed.

Learning support assistants quite often work with children who have special needs and/or challenging behaviours, yet are not always offered professional development. More often than not, a working knowledge for working with these children is gained on the run. When PD is offered, often it is not without strings attached, usually out of working hours, so that makes it unpaid.

In saying this, IEU has had an impressive win for Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn learning support staff. Members will be ‘paid’ to attend training on a Friday, by replacing them with a casual and those who are unable to attend the Friday training will be offered other options. Not only is this a great breakthrough but on completion of the course they will be reclassified to Level 5. How about that? It can be done!

Employers need to address the incidence of unpaid work completed by the majority of their school support staff due to increasing workloads.

This is difficult for those of us, who are the ‘job and finish’ types. There are provisions within our awards to address paid overtime or time in lieu, so I strongly recommend support staff are proactive in addressing this with employers.

When required to attend overnight camps, retreats or even excursions out of normal working hours, there are provisions to cover overtime and out of pocket expenses. Avail yourself of these, because when we don’t, we do not give a true reflection of our work load or our worth and nothing will ever change. Again, it can and should be done!

IEU is my Union, your Union, our Union!

Talk to your colleagues about joining the Union, with more IEU members and greater membership density in our schools and centres we can do so much more.