Seeking early award talks

Rod Brown
Deputy Secretary

Limited timeframe prompts Federation initiative

Federation is seeking an early start to negotiations for the next schools award.

The current schools award, Crown Employees (Teachers and Related Employees) Salaries and Conditions Award 2014, will expire on December 31 but the State Government wages policy prescribes that negotiations for any new award may not commence earlier than three months prior to the expiry of an award.

In the three months prior to the commencement of bargaining, government agencies are required to submit proposals and receive direction, first from the NSW Wages Policy Taskforce convened by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and then the Cabinet’s Expenditure Review Committee. Only when proposals have cleared these bodies are agencies permitted to commence bargaining.

In view of the limited timeframe, in a letter dated July 1, Federation wrote to the Department of Education seeking early meetings beyond the short, formal bargaining process in order to facilitate a prompt settlement for the new schools award.

The wages policy provides for salary increases of 2.5 per cent per year and with increases beyond 2.5 per cent that are funded by changes to employee working conditions. Federation rejects proposals that trade off working conditions for salary increases.

The 2014 award resulted in the shift to standards-based remuneration for teachers and the RAM-based model for determining principal salaries. This broke from the historical incremental salary scale for most teachers as well as the enrolment based mechanism for determining principal salaries.

Federation acknowledges that there are issues in relation to both standards-based remuneration for some teachers as there are issues arising for some principals from the RAM-based model for principal remuneration. These issues will be raised during the bargaining process.

Negotiations for the new award have been complicated by the Department’s actions in issuing an Interim Salary Review Procedure, which removes recognition for child-rearing, service with the Australian Defence Forces during times of hostilities and overseas teaching experience as relevant considerations in seeking a salary review.

In addition, arising from the new procedure, a break of more than five years from teaching will result in a teacher returning to employment being paid a beginning teacher’s salary irrespective of that teacher’s history of prior teaching. The interim procedure, while issued on May 11, has been applied retrospectively to January 1. This is not the first time that the Department has changed the criteria for determining teacher salaries. In 2002, the Department changed the criteria for determining salary by eliminating negative salary increments for breaks in service while removing recognition for employment in industry outside of teaching.

In June this year, in addition to the interim teacher salary review procedure issued in May, the Department wrote to the Federation proposing significant changes to the leave conditions of teachers under the heading of “leave simplification”.

Rod Brown is Deputy Secretary (Research/Industrial and Professional Support)

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