New schools award voted in at 211 centres

Federation members from schools have voted overwhelmingly to accept a new award agreement that locks in salaries and conditions for three years, starting on January 1, 2017.

Meeting in 211 venues across NSW, members viewed a presentation from the Presidential Officers outlining the terms of the new agreement as well as future campaign directions related to teacher workload. Federation President Maurie Mulheron opened the broadcast by outlining the key elements of the new award:

  • 2.5 per cent annual salary increase, to commence from the first pay period after January 1, 2017
  • all current working conditions maintained
  • a three-year duration, taking this award through until December 2019.

Mr Mulheron outlined the changes to the legislative landscape that placed significant limitations on collective bargaining procedures, the first change being the 2011 amendments to the Industrial Relations Act that limit the powers of the IRC. “The legislation has the effect of forcing all parties — public sector employees, unions and the Industrial Relations Commission — to comply with the NSW Public Sector Wages Policy,” Mr Mulheron said.

The NSW Public Sector Wages Policy, the second industrial instrument imposed by the NSW Coalition government, limits all public sector wage increases to 2.5 per cent unless working conditions are traded off to fund a higher increase or, conversely, that pay increases be reduced in order to fund any requested improvements in working conditions.

Mr Mulheron outlined the broader context of NSW salary negotiations with almost every state and territory having imposed similar limits on public sector wage negotiations. “What is worth noting is that the Western Australian, South Australian and Tasmanian governments have reduced the cap below 2.5 per cent,” Mr Mulheron said.

For this reason, members were urged to accept the agreement as well as endorse plans to take up issues of workload and work-value and oppose the state wages policy as independent campaign actions in the lead-up to the next state election in March 2019.

During the broadcast, Senior Vice President Joan Lemaire outlined the claims Federation had taken into the bargaining process, as outlined in the 2016 Annual Conference decision. These included recognition that state and federal initiatives had placed greater burdens on teachers.

“The sheer quantity of mandatory system-level demands has intensified work,” Ms Lemaire said. “These requirements create competing and often conflicting demands that reduce the time and resources available to focus on students.”

To provide more time for implementing mandatory policies, Federation asked for an additional hour’s release time for teachers but this was rejected by the Department on the basis that it should only come with a reduction in salary increase from 2.5 per cent to 1.6 per cent — an outcome unacceptable to Federation.

Of greater concern was the Department’s rejection of a claim that teachers and Federation be consulted before new initiatives such as Bump It Up are introduced into schools. “This is good industrial relations practice and is cost-free,” Ms Lemaire said in the broadcast. “Yet the Department said no.”

“This means we will dispute any change or initiative that is flawed or under-resourced and we will take any such disputes to the Industrial Relations Commission if necessary.”

An increased length to the school day, scrapping allowances, and changes to the professional development of principals were among the proposals put forward by the Department, Deputy President Gary Zadkovich explained.

The Department wanted to extend the school day from 7.30am to 5.30pm yet maintain current teaching hours within that span of school hours.

“Their proposal stalled when we questioned the supervision implications of students being dropped off at schools at 7.30am and not being collected until 5.30pm,” Mr Zadkovich explained.

Further proposals such as the introduction of a new teacher classification between Highly Accomplished and Head Teacher/Assistant Principal level also stalled due to an inability to define how it would work within the existing pay structure.

The final vote saw more than 99 per cent of members voting in support of the new award as well as in support of further campaign actions on workload and the public sector wages policy.

The vote on the new Award created a surge in membership of Federation. Almost 500 teachers joined since November 28 when an email about the vote went out. Many hundreds more had already joined this term and a significant number also became financial again.

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