Industrial action on the cards at Navitas ACT

Following an unproductive meeting between teachers, support staff, the Union and management of Navitas ACT in late December, industrial action could be imminent.

Negotiations between the IEU and Navitas ACT have continued for a year but have now reached a stalemate.

Navitas took over the federally funded program provided to migrant and refugee services in the ACT at the start of 2015.

Previously the services had been provided by TAFE and staff were employed by the public service.

IEU teachers rep Jakki Cashman (pictured above) said the transition was “a shocking blow’ to many.

The change meant a drop in pay and a loss of sick leave and other conditions.

Classes are provided in the same building, so Jakki and her colleagues now endure working next door to TAFE teachers who are receiving much better pay and conditions but providing virtually the same service.

A top level Navitas teacher in the ACT is earning about $10,000 less than a Navitas teacher in NSW, and about $20,000 less than a TAFE teacher.

In the current negotiations Navitas ACT staff are asking to receive the same pay as Navitas teachers in NSW.

A top level Navitas teacher in the ACT is earning about $10,000 less than a Navitas teacher in NSW, and about $20,000 less than a TAFE teacher.

“We are trying to achieve fairness and equality. We are doing the same job as our colleagues in NSW yet earning much less.

“What is it about us that our employer thinks we are less worthy than our NSW colleagues?

“Navitas provides this federal program in more than one state yet there is no consistency in remuneration or conditions for teachers. Federal employees don’t lose salary if they transfer to another state – why should the teachers?”

Jakki said it had taken some time following the transition to find out who could represent them.

“Since the IEU stepped in they have been wonderfully supportive.”

Support staff rep Julie Halse (pictured top right) agreed there is no logical reason why support staff in the ACT should earn less than their counterparts working for Navitas in NSW. As in many workplaces, some employees are not fully aware of the role unions play in achieving better working conditions. The members at Navitas ACT have endeavoured to involve all employees in the negotiation process.

Jakki said shareholders were profiting, and Navitas management had told them they were moving into a “global marketplace” with a private provider and they had to get used to it.

"It’s not just about the money, they are eroding our status. We are working with young people who have postgraduate qualifications and deserve a fair chance.”

Jakki hopes the vote will be in favour of industrial action in February, although, like Julie, she is aware that many staff are unsure about union action.

Sue Osborne