October 25: Branch Council Rejects ETD Offer
At a meeting of more than 80 Councillors on Saturday 25 October 2014, AEU ACT Branch Council unanimously rejected the Government’s initial offer to teaching staff.
AEU ACT Branch Council is deeply disappointed in the ACT Government offer to school teaching staff as received on 24 October 2014.
It is clear, from the offer as written, that the Government has dismissed the core priority and Claim 1 of the AEU ACT Branch log of claims for 2014. This fundamental failure, along with an inadequate pay model which leaves the ACT as no longer nationally competitive, renders the offer completely unacceptable in its current, admittedly sparse, form.
Council notes the following points from the offer:
1. With the exception of once-only payments for teachers achieving certification, the offer is cost-neutral, despite six months of bargaining.
2. The salary offer is wholly within the cost envelope of the Gonski 3% guaranteed increase for education funding.
3. Not one extra resource has been found to address the serious issue of excessive teacher workload and the challenge of maintaining sustainable, properly resourced professional learning communities which are key for improved student outcomes.
4. That this offer fails to address the needs of students in ACT public schools, and it demonstrates the ACT Government does not adequately value the young people of the ACT.
As a consequence, Council does not view the Government offer to teaching staff dated 24 October 2014 as being worthy of serious consideration by the Union. Furthermore, Council reaffirms its support of the Union’s negotiating team in pressing for the full log of claims as agreed by AEU members in March 2014.
Numerous Union objections to the offer were discussed on Saturday, and, as reported in an email members on Monday 27 October 2014, this includes the following:
- If accepted, this salary offer would almost certainly see the majority of our teachers slip into the bottom half of the states and territories salary table over the life of the Agreement. Being 5th in the country behind Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and NSW is far from “nationally competitive”. It appears that the ACT Labor Government values the remuneration of classroom teachers less than the Conservative Governments in four jurisdictions. Salary justice for ACT teachers was achieved off the back of a strong and sustained member campaign in 2011-2012, when we climbed from last to 3rd in the country (based on the top increment of the classroom teacher salary scale). We cannot allow ACT teachers to slip back.
- The employer has acknowledged excessive workload has “take[n] teachers away from their core role” (p.6) and that “some aspects of teachers’ work in schools may have purposes not directly related to improving student learning” (p.7) but is not prepared to find the resources that will guarantee system change in this regard. Instead, after doing virtually nothing to support the operation of school workload committees over the last few years, ETD is attempting to put forward workload committees as the saviour. “”Encouraging and supporting schools to gain TQI accreditation for their professional learning community activities” (Offer, p.6), as well as “examining” and “investigating” the increasing complexity of a teacher’s week is something that should have happened before. The employer appears to be interested in a cost-neutral exercise in spring cleaning, rather than sustainable system reform and guaranteeing protection for its teachers from burnout. The Government has rejected the AEU’s core claim for a modest reduction in face-to-face teaching hours. Nothing has altered the AEU’s resolve to secure the investment required to make this a reality.
- For some years, the AEU has pursued a more sensible salary structure for principals. We can accept no more reviews or working parties, nor indeed “transitional arrangements” (p.13) nor promises to “develop the revised structure” (p.13) that are mooted in this offer. We need a new, functioning principal salary structure in this EA from Day 1, not eighteen months or more down the line. This part of the offer, perhaps more than any other, betrays the hurried and incomplete nature of the Government’s document.
- The Government continues to reject the AEU’s claim, formally endorsed by the general membership and the principal membership, that all principal jobs must in the first instance go to transfer. Instead, it seeks to have all principal jobs go straight to open merit, claiming that the current transfer arrangement “impedes placement of principals with particular experience, insight and skill in schools where they are most needed”. (p.12) This statement insults every principal who seeks to access a long-standing arrangement to gain experiences and share expertise across a range of placements within our vibrant system. If principals are not suitable to be moved into a slightly different role at level it begs the question: Why isn’t the employer adequately developing their skill set? Transfer rights are important for all members to retain as a hard-won condition of employment in our system.
- The offer is premature in the sense that a number of matters are still under negotiation and do not appear in this document. Members are now being told that if we are to achieve resource gains to support enhanced professional learning opportunities for principals, the specific needs of VET teachers, school psychologist attraction and retention or acceptable temperatures in workplaces, we will have to sacrifice other things.