Protected Industrial Action Ballot – Vote YES

When you receive a ballot paper from the Australian Electoral Commission asking you to vote on taking protected industrial action, vote YES.

We have gained approval from the Fair Work Commission to conduct a ballot of AEU members and you are asked to vote YES.

A successful YES vote does not mean we will necessarily take industrial action; it just means we have the option to.

Vote YES

We have been bargaining with the ACT Government for over a year. Despite all the meetings and all the negotiations, the Government has offered very little in the way of resources to address excessive workload. The Government, from the Minister down, has accepted that workload has reached unacceptable levels. But still the Government refuses to provide the extra resources necessary for a solution.

The Government has agreed to a new clause and guidelines designed to reduce workload. It outlines the core role of a teacher and explicitly lists a range of tasks teachers are not expected to perform. But detail has not been provided about additional resourcing to employ other school staff to do the work teachers won’t have to do.

No reassurance has been provided that work will be taken off classroom teachers without passing the burden to other members, including School Leadership, Executive teachers and School Assistants.

The Government is providing no reduction in face-to-face hours despite the independent evidence that we are averaging 50 hour weeks, well above the national average, and that our face-to-face hours are well above the OECD average.

The Government is providing verbal support for enhanced professional collaboration but inadequate resourcing to ensure we have adequate time for it. Instead, the Government is proposing that three of our five PD days are broken into smaller sessions that we do on top of our current workload.

On May 9, Branch Council passed the following resolution:

“Branch Council rejects the ACT Government offer of 28 April 2015 for school teachers and school leaders, and authorises the Secretary to commence the application process for a protected industrial action ballot of members.

Branch Council further requests the Secretary to convene regional meetings of members to discuss the current state of play in negotiations and to explore possibilities for protected industrial action by members.

Branch Council authorises the Secretary and AEU negotiating team to continue to negotiate with ETD or the Government as it sees fit.”

How will taking industrial action help?

Industrial action will help by significantly increasing pressure on the ACT Government to reach a compromise. Industrial action focuses the attention of parents and the broader community on our industrial dispute and gives the Government strong incentives to rapidly come to a mutually agreeable settlement. During our last Enterprise Agreement in 2011, we had to take industrial action twice before the Government agreed to deliver pay parity with NSW teachers.

What about the negative impact of industrial action on my students?

If we decide to take industrial action, it will be because we believe the short-term disruption is warranted by the long-term benefits of winning the resources and conditions we need to deliver outstanding educational outcomes for our students over coming years.

Is our core claim affordable?

There will always be many competing demands on the Territory budget – and many ways to manage those demands. Educators should not be pressured by rhetoric about budget deficits into accepting a situation where we are overworked and unable to deliver the best possible outcomes for our students.

Budgets always come down to a question of priorities and an adequately resourced public education system must be an urgent priority for any ACT Government.

Isn’t the pay offer as good as we’re going to get?

The dispute now isn’t about the pay offer but what resources the Government will provide to address excessive teacher workload.

The Government is asking us to sign an Enterprise Agreement that will last for four years. We must strike a deal that we can live with for that period.

Equally, it’s crucial we use the bargaining power we have now to address the issues facing ACT education.

Minister Burch has attempted to leverage the Abbott Government’s radical industrial relations agenda to justify her own approach. In May, The Canberra Times quoted the Minister claiming she has made “a fair and reasonable offer, particularly in the current environment, where you are looking at more federal public service job cuts and in some federal agencies fewer conditions and very little growth". This was a continuation of the tactics employed in October 2014, when the Directorate released the initial offer which included a pay deal and little else.

We have no intention of assessing the merits of our Enterprise Agreement against the appallingly low bar set by Abbott Government Minister, Eric Abetz. We will continue to work in solidarity with our colleagues in the Commonwealth Public Service to resist the Abbott Government agenda of cutting public services and attacking public servants. The fairly transparent attempt by an ACT Labor Education Minister to benefit from a right-wing attack on working people reflects very poorly on her indeed. 

We urge you to vote YES to all six measures.

By voting YES to all measures you will ensure that if we need to take industrial action, we are equipped to exert maximum pressure to quickly achieve an outcome. The range of proposed measures will enable us to stop work if necessary and to apply a range of bans that will help publicise what’s at stake in our dispute with the Government.

  1. An unlimited number of stoppages of work for periods up to two hours.
  2. An unlimited number of stoppages of work for periods up to half a day
  3. An unlimited number of stoppages of work for periods up to a full day
  4. An unlimited number of bans or limitations upon the:
    a. completion of fortnightly absence records
    b. implementation of the proposed new student report policy
    c. packing, stocktaking and moving of equipment and furniture
    d. cleaning and maintenance of facilities, furniture and equipment
    e. attendance at weekend events
    f. attendance at weekend professional learning that is school or system initiated
  5. An unlimited number of actions in the form of wearing or displaying in the workplace in any way insignia, slogans and/or any other material concerning the Union campaign about the Enterprise Agreement
  6. An unlimited number of actions in the form of providing information authorized by the AEUACT, through any method (verbal, written, electronically etc.) about any aspect of the Union campaign to members of the ACT community, including but not limited to, parents, carers, students and the media.

Q&A - Voting on Taking Protected Industrial Action

What is ‘protected industrial action’?

A range of conditions have to be met before workers can strike or take other industrial action. One condition is that it must occur in a bargaining period (after the existing Agreement has nominally expired). Another is that a ballot of affected employees must occur.

Before we can take protected industrial action, we must conduct a successful ballot of members. For the ballot to be successful, a majority (50% +1) of members must vote and a majority (50% + 1) must vote in favour.

If these conditions are met, it means the industrial action is ‘protected’, ie. workers can strike without any fear of being fined or incurring any other penalty.

If I vote ‘Yes’, does that mean we will definitely take industrial action?

No.  A successful ‘Yes’ vote will mean we have the option of taking protected industrial action if and when we choose to. Whether we choose to will depend on any further developments in ongoing negotiations.

Who makes the final decision about whether we actually take industrial action?

The final decision is made by the union’s senior officers, in line with Council's decision in May.

How do I vote? 

The ballot is being conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The AEC will send you a ballot paper in the post and you just need to complete the ballot paper and return it to the AEC by the specified date. Note that you are required to vote on each and every form of industrial action. We urge you to vote YES to all proposed actions to give us maximum flexibility.

What if I don’t receive a ballot paper?

If you do not receive a ballot paper, it may be because your address is not up to date in our system. In this instance, please contact the AEC and request that a new ballot paper be sent to your current address. Please also let the AEU ACT office know your current address details (6272 7900,

In the unlikely event that the AEC advises you are not on the roll, please contact the AEU office as soon as possible.


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