Members claim their rights in independent schools

Members may not be aware that the Union can take legal action to enforce their rights under the enterprise agreement applying to their school.

Although most schools are scrupulous in ensuring they comply with the relevant industrial instrument this is not always the case.

Temporary appointments

All IEU agreements (and the modern award) set limits on the use of temporary appointments. Temporary appointments are supposed to be used for replacement teachers (for example to replace a teacher who is on extended leave) or for genuine short term specific tasks.

A teacher who is incorrectly classified as temporary may find it harder to enforce redundancy and unfair dismissal rights if their appointment is not renewed. For this reason, members should check their letter of appointment when they start a new job to ensure it reflects their understanding. A finish date on the letter (typically the last day of Term 4) means the appointment is temporary.

The Multi Enterprise Agreements (MEAs) applying to AIS independent schools provide that a teacher shall not be employed on successive temporary appointments except where each appointment is for a different purpose.

The MEAs also state that a temporary appointment cannot be used for probation and that any advertisement for a temporary position must make clear that it is temporary.

The Union recently won permanency for 12 teachers at a large independent school in Sydney who had been engaged as temporary teachers contrary to the MEA. These teachers will now have redundancy rights (calculated on all of their service) and unfair dismissal protection.

In another example, the Victorian branch of our Union took action in the Federal Court against a Victorian school that engaged teachers as temporary contrary to the relevant award and later falsified their records (to pretend the contracts had not been temporary) when the Union exercised right of entry to inspect the school records. The Federal Court found against the school and will now hear submissions on the penalties that should be imposed on the school (including for contempt of court).

Lunch breaks

The independent school MEAs entitles teachers to a 30 minute lunch break, free of all duties. In a secondary school, teachers may not get their 30 minutes if they are rostered on for a duty and lunch is only 40 or 50 minutes long.

The lunch break is enforceable and teachers should insist on a free period on either side of the lunch break if they are not getting the 30 minutes. The school cannot schedule staff meetings during lunch, although of course IEU members may choose to hold a Chapter meeting at this time.

Any concerns?

If union members have any concerns about whether their rate of pay or conditions are consistent with their enterprise agreement, call the Union immediately for confidential advice. We can advise you as to the best way to enforce your rights.

Carol Matthews
Assistant Secretary