Both the Australian Education Union state branch and Department for Education have provided notices of intention to negotiate a new agreement under the Fair Work Act, with the first meeting between the parties scheduled for this afternoon.
The union has released a seven-point plan outlining its priorities which include addressing gender inequality, recruiting more teaching staff and increasing teacher permanency.
Union state president Howard Spreadbury said the Education Department’s current system of incremental salary progression was unequal as part-time workers – most of whom are women – find it harder to reach higher salary bands than full-time workers.
He said the Department was “out of step” with other government agencies as it is the only agency in the state that uses an accumulative system rather than a calendar system for managing its staff members’ incremental progression.
“Teachers have to complete 207 duty days in a school year to progress up to the next salary step, so if you’re on a 0.5 part-time level it will take you two years to accumulate 207 full days whereas for a full-time teacher that’s only one year,” Spreadbury said.
“Seventy per cent of our education workforce is female and many of those, for their choice for family responsibilities, will choose to work part-time for a number of years after they’ve had a family.
“At every other agency, you progress through the incremental steps annually but in education, you have to be full-time to do that otherwise you’ll progress at an adjusted down rate.”
Spreadbury said support staff officers in primary schools and preschools faced insecurity and lower incomes.
He said many were involuntarily working on a part-time or casual basis because the workforce was becoming increasingly casualised.
“It’s tough for many workers who are working in casualised support staff conditions and there are a high number of females who are struggling, particularly if they’re the main income earners.”
As part of its push to address gender inequality, the union is also calling for improved flexibility for teachers returning to work from domestic violence leave.
Spreadbury said teachers are already entitled to 10 days domestic violence leave per year, but some struggle in their transition back to work.
He said the AEU is campaigning to increase the domestic violence leave to 20 days based on Australian Council of Trade Union’s model clause.
“Unfortunately domestic violence is becoming a more common phenomenon and affecting people in all professions and in all industries,” he said.
“Many women will be seeking some variation to their work pattern when they do return to work from DV leave so we want the employer to have provisions where there’s some understanding that someone who might be full-time, for example, can return to work on a part-time capacity initially.
“It’s one thing to have domestic violence leave but it’s also about improving conditions when workers return to work.”
Other union priorities include increasing the number of teachers to reduce class sizes and addressing teacher workloads.
“We need more support specialist staff in schools to reduce the ratios between adults and students,” Spreadbury said.
“It’s class size but it’s also complexity – I might be a primary teacher with 28 students and that’s a lot of kids, but if of those I’ve got six or seven on individualised learning plans because they’ve got learning delays or behavioural issues it becomes a very complex class.
“Teachers are having to adapt the curriculum, develop individual learning plans for those students and it’s just increasing their workload substantially.”
Spreadbury said if South Australia were to adopt Victoria’s ratio of staff to students in secondary schools the department would need to employ approximately 300 extra teachers.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.