Union demands fair pay at Reddam House

The IEU is in dispute with Reddam House, an elite independent school in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, over the underpayment of wages to its early learning centre teachers and educators.

Members at Reddam ELS, an early learning school set up by Reddam House, contacted the Union in October 2015 concerned about new contracts of employment they had been issued.

These contracts were issued by a new entity previously unknown to the Union, Crawford Education Pty Ltd. Equally concerning was the fact that the contracts stipulated modern award conditions despite the Union having successfully negotiated Teachers and Support and Operational Staff Enterprise Agreements with Reddam House, in line with the Multi-Enterprise Agreements applying to other independent schools in NSW.

The new contracts suggested a teacher engaged at Reddam ELS could be paid $31,527 less and receive less long service leave and parental leave than the same teacher employed in a class across the schoolyard at Reddam House.

Despite Reddam House advising parents on their website that Reddam ELS “prepares children best for a Reddam education”, the school claimed that members at Reddam ELS were not their employees. Rather Crawford Education, a company that according to ASIC records has connections to the Mauritius, employed them. As Crawford Education was a different employer the school argued the employees were not covered by the enterprise agreements the Union had negotiated with Reddam House.

The Union notified a dispute on behalf of members to the Fair Work Commission. Reddam House and Crawford Education then tried to stop the Fair Work Commission taking any action in relation to the dispute, claiming the Union was not legally able to notify a dispute under the disputes procedure in the relevant industrial instrument, that is the modern award (which the employers said applied to the work) or the Reddam House enterprise agreement. The employer also refused to provide any information (such as payroll records) that would clarify who the employer was and which industrial instrument applied.

The new contracts suggested a teacher engaged at Reddam ELS could be paid $31,527 less than the same teacher employed in a class across the schoolyard.

There were numerous proceedings before the Fair Work Commission in late November and December 2015. In these proceedings the Union asked the Commission to force the employer to provide the Union with documents, including letters of appointment, payslips and group certificates, which would help determine who the proper employer was. Reddam House and Crawford Education engaged several barristers, including senior counsel, to represent them in the dispute and to oppose any production of information.

Eventually, following an unsuccessful appeal by Reddam House and Crawford Education to the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission, the Union was successful in obtaining access to the documents, to assist in determining whether the relevant modern award or Reddam House enterprise agreement applied.

Following the decision and media publicity, Graeme Crawford, the founder of Reddam House, whose brand extends to schools in South Africa and the UK, flew back to Australia to meet with the Union. Discussions took place in early January, and at the time of writing the school have proposed to create new enterprise agreements to cover Reddam ELS members.

Negotiations are continuing and the Union is consulting with members. If the Union does not manage to reach a settlement satisfactory to members, the proceedings before the Fair Work Commission will continue.

We look forward to Reddam ELS keeping to its motto "We shall give back".

Roberts Seals
Industrial Officer