Protecting permanent employment

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

After repeated reports of permanent teacher vacancies in schools not being filled permanently in accord with the staffing agreement, Federation pursued the matter in meetings and exchanges of letters with the Department. Unsatisfactory progress resulted in Federation lodging a dispute in the Industrial Relations Commission on September 20.

On the recommendation of the Industrial Relations Commission, the Department has agreed to provide school data previously requested by Federation. The Department will compile, interrogate and analyse the data in the early weeks of term 4 and meet with Federation during the week commencing November 4. A report back to the IRC is scheduled for November 11.

History of the dispute

At the Joint Monitoring and Review Committee meeting on April 11, Federation was provided with a staffing report showing 2218 permanent teacher vacancies in all schools across the state. During this meeting, the Department proposed that 974 schools with a high proportion of permanent teacher vacancies should be audited. After discussion between the parties, it was agreed that 1411 schools would be audited.

A subsequent report provided to Federation indicated that there were 1661 permanent teacher vacancies at the commencement of the monitoring by Staffing Services in term 2, and that this was reduced to 1492 by July 2. The Department stated that “during term 2, contact was made with a total of 81 schools (41 primary, 38 high and 2 central schools) which were identified as having a high proportion of unfilled vacancies or were brought to the attention of Staffing Services by the NSW Teachers Federation”.

After reaching agreement that 1411 schools would be audited, it is unsatisfactory for the Department to subsequently report that so few schools have been audited. It is clear that the Department has not allocated sufficient personnel and resources to this task to ensure all schools’ compliance with the staffing agreement.

The Department responded to Federation’s demands for an effective monitoring and auditing process by distributing an email to all principals on September 9 which stated:

“Principals are reminded that the Staffing Agreement is a binding industrial agreement between the Department and the Teachers Federation and all aspects of the Agreement must be respected by both parties, including all officers employed by both parties. The provisions of the Agreement also apply to schools participating in Empowering Local Schools.”

The fact remains, however, that insufficient resources and personnel have been allocated by the Department to back up this communication to schools. While the Department sought to assure Federation that this would be allocated to the Human Resources Directorate for 2014, it is unacceptable that many teachers are currently employed temporarily when they should be appointed permanently.