Salary negotiations underway

Meetings with DEC scheduled for the next two weeks.

Maurie Mulheron

Negotiations for the main school salaries award are proceeding, with the current award due to expire at the end of this year. Negotiations are being held in the context of the unfair NSW Public Sector Wages Policy which has capped all public sector increases at 2.5 per cent per annum but which places no such limits on the private sector.

There is currently no capacity for public sector employees to have arbitrated decisions above the wage cap or any scope for work-value arguments in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).

To make matters worse, in late June 2013, the NSW Government announced that it would not absorb the federal compulsory superannuation guarantee levy. Instead, it proposes to discount any 2.5 per cent salary increase each year until 2019 as the superannuation guarantee lifts from 9 per cent to 12 per cent.

This new policy means that the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC) has offered a 2.27 per cent increase from the first pay period after January 1, 2014, 2.0 per cent from January 1, 2015 and 2.15 per cent from January 1, 2016. The award’s duration would be three years.

The NSW Government’s position on the superannuation discount has already failed in the IRC, in State Parliament, and is now the subject of another IRC hearing in late November. Should the Government’s position ultimately fail, Federation is demanding that the DEC’s offer must revert to the 2.5 per cent in accord with the NSW Public Sector Wages Policy.

Existing working conditions are preserved in the proposed award. However, there are four “initiatives” that the DEC wishes to introduce — a standards-referenced classroom teacher pay scale; a revamped teacher performance and development framework that aligns with the national teaching standards; revised teacher efficiency procedures; and a new principal classification structure.

The new standards-referenced pay scale would take effect for new teachers who begin their careers in 2016. It would be a five-step scale across two bands with the minimum time to reach ‘top of the scale’ being seven years. Band 1 would involve graduate teachers staying at the beginning rate (currently step 5) for two years during which time they would be required to meet the standards of proficient teacher, as is the case now. The next step would be band 2 which would equate to step 9 in the existing scale. After two years minimum at this rate, the teacher would progress through three more steps to reach the ‘top of the scale’.

Progression is automatic, subject to normal efficiency requirements. There are no quotas at any stage.

A new band 3 classification that sits above the highest step would be created. This is for any teacher who successfully acquires Higher Accomplished Teacher accreditation. This salary rate would be a system funded position, voluntary, without quotas, not linked to specific job criteria and ‘owned’ by the teacher, not the school. It is proposed that the salary rate would sit about mid-way between ‘top of the scale’ and the first promotion level of assistant principal/head teacher.

The proposal for a performance and development framework that aligns with the national teaching standards is quite lacking in detail. Federation is seeking a more detailed policy that includes additional funding for an individual teacher’s professional development.

Federation has made it clear that the employer must make a substantial financial contribution to supporting teachers in engaging with the new performance and development framework. This should also enable teachers to exercise more control over their professional learning.

The revised teacher efficiency procedures seek to streamline the process of supporting teachers who are not performing against the requirements of the position held and the teaching standards.

Federation is continuing to negotiate on this matter to ensure procedural fairness and due process.

The DEC is also seeking to introduce a new principals’ classification system derived from its Local Schools, Local Decisions policy. Federation did not seek this new model and has consistently rejected it for a number of reasons.

The proposed model would see the salaries of all principals determined, not by student enrolments, but by the size of the budget that the NSW Treasury provides to each school. Federation rejects the notion that principals should have their role redefined primarily as that of a financial manager.

Under the new model, the salaries of all principals would no longer be fixed for the duration of their tenure. Instead, a principal’s salary could potentially go up or down, depending on what size Resource Allocation Model the NSW Treasury is prepared to allocate a school.

For those principals in either of the two defined benefit superannuation schemes, this could also adversely affect their final payout or their superannuation pension.

The new model throws up further anomalies and difficulties.

The DEC documentation that was presented to the Federation clearly explains that, due to the introduction of the Local School, Local Decisions policy, current PP5 and PP6 classifications will be regarded as not having a complex budget. Therefore, the DEC is proposing that these positions would cease to have the status of principal. Instead, the positions would become Lead Teachers linked in some unexplained way to another school.

Federation believes that the issue of school complexity and workload would be far better addressed by increasing executive release and providing additional administration staff.

The DEC has indicated that funding for the new Highly Accomplished Teacher classification and the new principals’ classification model would be drawn from the additional Gonski funding provided by the NSW National Education Reform Agreement (NERA).

Federation will continue to pursue its policy objectives in the negotiation meetings scheduled for the next two weeks.