Court action for casual and temporary teachers

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

Federation has lodged a dispute application with the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to secure permanent employment for thousands of casual and temporary teachers.

The dispute centres on the Department of Education’s failure to meet its obligations under the Salaries and Conditions Award and the School Staffing Agreement.

Clause 22.3 of the award states that the “Department will seek to maximise the filling of vacancies in schools by the appointment of permanent teachers, including permanent part-time teachers, where reasonably practical”.

The Procedure to implement the Staffing Agreement states that the “Department recognises that permanency is a key recruitment and retention incentive for teaching in NSW public schools”.

Despite these statements, however, Federation is contending that the Department is not meeting the requirements of Clause 20 of the Staffing Agreement, to monitor and resolve compliance matters regarding the temporary appointment of teachers to permanent vacancies in schools.

This dispute does not relate to casual and temporary teachers who are employed to replace permanent teachers on short- or long-term leave from positions to which they have right of return. This is standard, accepted practice.

The dispute relates to the temporary appointment of teachers to positions that are vacated by a permanent teacher, for reasons such as retirement, resignation, promotion or transfer to another school, and to new positions established because of increased student enrolments. Several thousand of these positions remain unfilled, as reported in the Department's Compliance Monitoring Report to Federation.

The dispute centres on the Department of Education's failure to meet its obligations under the Salaries and Conditions Award and the School Staffing Agreement on 11 August 2017. Federation is asserting in the IRC that this practice is in breach of both the Staffing Agreement and the award.

It should be noted that a permanent position may be filled on a temporary basis under Clause 2.1 of the Staffing Agreement when:

  • enrolments at the school have been and/or are projected to decline
  • enrolments at the school have been fluctuating
  • the curriculum offerings at the school are changing and some subjects have been and/or are projected to decline
  • part-time positions are required to target specific whole-of-school programs that are subject to annual review and change.

Federation accepts that temporary appointments may be legitimately made under Clause 2.1 for the reasons listed. When enrolments are projected to decline, for example, it would generally be preferable for a temporary appointment to be made to a permanent vacancy, rather than make a permanent appointment that is likely to generate the nominated transfer of a permanent teacher to another school.

Representatives of the Department and Federation have attended compulsory conferences in the IRC on 21 August and 11 September. The commission has recommended that the parties meet in an effort to resolve the dispute, based on Federation’s proposal as tabled in the latter hearing. A further conference is scheduled for 28 September.

Federation hopes to achieve a positive resolution of this matter with the assistance of the IRC.

Click here to download PDF.