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Enterprise Agreements & Family Friendly Benchmarks

As schools negotiate their own enterprise agreements, issues naturally fall into 4 categories.

  1. Salary
  2. Teacher Workload
  3. ESO conditions
  4. Core “family friendly” conditions

Determining appropriate salary increases 3 years out (but hopefully not 4 years out) involves a level of economics and necromancy rarely found in one source. Currently if in 2018 a top scale teacher isn’t already in the 100K club, then they are underpaid, and if you aren’t seeking 2.5% or higher then you are selling yourselves short.

Teachers with uncodified workloads are subject to work intensification with little scope to reign it in because there is no limit to what can be demanded of them. Even in the Catholic and Lutheran agreements where workload is codified in some detail, not everything a teacher is asked to do can be attributed to a codified “bucket”. As awards and agreements talk of attendance days and teaching loads, it is important to get at least these basic numbers included in the local agreement. These numbers are known. Now is the time to write them into agreements.

To not have codified even at a basic level what one needs to do to earn the pay is equivalent to signing a blank cheque. Your part of the deal is not limited, but the employer’s part of the bargain is. It is akin to picking the car you want to buy and letting the dealer fill in the amount on your signed blank cheque.

Non-teachers (however called) technically don’t have this problem. As hourly paid employees they should be paid for everything they do. This means being a bit hard-nosed and leaving excessive work undone or done at overtime rates, but at least the hourly rate is codified. Classification levels and penalty rates are the real industrial issues. With teachers the annual rate is codified .. and there are 8760 hours that could be filled in a year.

There are certain employment standards that are expected in modern workplaces. People have become used to 37.5 or 38 hour weeks, penalty rates (under attack), superannuation, public holidays, sick leave, annual leave, long service leave, unpaid and paid parental leave and national wage increases. The union movement has won these standards over time. The movement hasn’t stopped struggling for decent work in a decent society.

Where are we up to in our enterprise agreements?

Paid Parental Leave (available to either partner) is generally 14 or 16 weeks. The Department for Education has 16 weeks with longer serving employees getting 20 weeks. If you have lesser amounts or local restrictions then that needs to change.

The current push with parental leave is to accommodate in some way for the parent’s career break by providing superannuation on the paid leave and having the leave counting for service. There is a good take up on the superannuation and a growing acceptance on the cheaper aspect of service.

Paid partner leave around the time of the birth is most commonly 5 to 10 days, but some still need to bring 5 or fewer days up to the 10 day standard.

Family and Domestic Violence Leave has now been recognised in the National Employment Standards (as well as in modern awards). Any agreement that simply talks about giving favourable consideration now falls below the bar. The ACTU (and IEU) claim is for 10 paid days and either 5 or 10 days paid is the common EA outcome. The push for 10 continues.

School fee discounts for children of staff is not uncommon in AIS schools but it tends to be school specific.

A common employer tactic is to test the resolve of negotiators by saying that the improved family friendly conditions come at a cost and that cost comes out of the salary increase. Yes there is a cost, but that cost is a cost of doing business and a cost of being a responsible employer. Employees should not have to pay for their own conditions.

Some groups of employees become invisible at EA time. TRTs will be covered by the school’s EA but don’t get a vote unless they were actually employed in the 7 days before the vote is taken. The Department for Education pays relieving teachers at their incremental step plus the 25% loading. The previous state awards set the non-government TRT rate at Step 1 plus 25%. As you cannot even register as a teacher on step 1, the vast majority of non-government schools have been convinced to make it the entry level Step 3 plus loading. A small number of AIS schools cling to Step 1 because they can get away with it.

Instrumental music teachers and sport coaches also tend to get a raw deal because they are invisible at EA time.

As a union it is our duty to look after those who aren’t there to speak for themselves. Far too often we hear

  • “When I had my kids, I didn’t get paid leave or super so I am not going to push too hard for that!”
  • “TRTs still like to come here so the money isn’t important to them”

According to that logic we would still be sending kids down coal mines instead of to preschool!

General conditions improvements only happen when there is a coordinated  campaign to fight for them. If we as unionists don’t fight for the voiceless and only for enlightened self- interest then we have dropped the ball.