Federation officers have fought in the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to expose Corrective Services NSW’s (CSNSW) strategy of re-badging qualified teachers as clerks to perform substantially the same work and then strip them from their award.
Federation notified a dispute in the IRC in May 2016 over CSNSW’s planned restructure of adult prison education services from 2017. The union denounced the NSW government’s attack on quality public provision of education by the downsizing of its teaching establishment from 152.5 to 20 full-time equivalent roles and by the outsourcing of face-to-face teaching by competitive tender.
Commissioner Inaam Tabbaa, hearing the Federation’s dispute, confirmed that the limits of the IRC’s jurisdiction prevented it from intervening to stop public sector job losses and privatisation.
Federation found the early role descriptions released by CSNSW for the new Assessment and Planning Officer (APO) and the Education Services Coordinator (ESC) roles were worded substantially the same as roles being undertaken by qualified teachers under the Crown Employees (Education Employees Department of Justice — Corrective Services NSW) Award.
When pressed, CSNSW refused to explain in detail how the teaching and “clerical” roles would differ. In the IRC, Federation fought against CSNSW’s proposal to place up to 69 qualified teachers into roles dubbed clerical and pay them less under another award.
Initial discussions with the employer confirmed the new roles were not identical to existing roles but they had many similarities.
Federation proposed a grandparenting arrangement for CSNSW to retain those 69 employees on the Education Employees Award while they performed those similar roles but CSNSW rejected this proposal, claiming it diluted the symbolism of workplace change.
Federation’s determination to fight for the status of qualified CSNSW teachers resulted in CSNSW raising salaries for the new roles when the final change management plan was approved by the Department Secretary in August 2016.
When teachers in the Corrective Services Teachers Association were taking industrial action against the restructure on September 14, including a rally outside Parliament House, Federation avoided anti-strike orders in the IRC. If issued, anti-strike orders could have led to fines.
Additionally, through the IRC, CSNSW was required to request Premier Baird’s reply to the union’s unanswered letter which had asked him to reverse his government’s restructuring decision. The Premier’s letter of refusal was received by the end of that day.
Federation had to overcome sustained opposition and avoidance by CSNSW to clarify the duties of the new clerical roles in detail and in writing. Federation obtained a recommendation by the IRC in October for CSNSW to meet the union’s request. The resulting documents have been noted by the IRC.
Federation may use the documented duties statements obtained through the IRC processes to inform its actions this year as CSNSW implements its new model for adult education and vocational training.
The union regards these statements as the employer’s assurance that it will not require either an APO or an ESC employee to perform any of the duties that Federation believes require a teaching qualification. Those duties include face-to-face teaching, developing course, curriculum or learning materials, tutoring inmates undertaking distance education or experiencing learning difficulties, applying judgement rather than administering a computer program to assess inmates’ literacy and numeracy skills, validating assessment tasks and supervising the professional work of qualified teachers.
Federation’s view is that APOs and ESCs who are required to perform these tasks should have teaching qualifications, salary and conditions as prescribed by the Education Employees Award. APOs and ESCs who are asked to perform these tasks are urged to contact Federation.
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