15 November 2022

'Irresponsible to do anything but decline': teachers slam latest pay offer as 'stop works' continue

| Lottie Twyford
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Teachers taking industrial action

ACT and NSW Catholic teachers joined with NSW public school educators to strike together earlier this year. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

ACT public school teachers are set to reject the Territory government’s “clearly inadequate” pay offer as the union warns they are ready to discuss further “action” in response.

It comes amid continued industrial action by Catholic and independent teachers who are also angry at unresolved pay issues and are stopping work at various points throughout the week.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) ACT branch, which represents public school teachers, has been calling for a 7.5 per cent pay increase per year alongside measures that would make workloads manageable.

But the union said that the government has made an offer which equates to – for the majority of teachers – 3.5 per cent per annum and less than 3 per cent for principals.

pay table

A table compiled by the union showing principal salary increases. Image: AEU ACT Branch.

In a joint letter to the union, Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Industrial Relations Minister Mick Gentleman said the government had focused on the lowest-paid workers by offering recurrent and non-recurrent flat dollar increases.

That means a person on a $50,000 salary would receive an 8 per cent increase in the first year, a 5.3 per cent increase in the second, 3.8 per cent in the third year and 3.7 per cent in the fourth, as well as a one-off cost-of-living supplement – taking their 2026 salary to $61,206.

Someone on a $75,000 salary would receive an increase of 5.7 per cent, followed by 4.4 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 3.2 per cent, as well as the $1250 supplement.

Pay increases decrease the more someone’s salary increases.

The union has argued that offer still doesn’t cut it.

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Branch president Angela Burroughs described the offer as a “missed opportunity” given the ongoing teacher shortage.

“An attractive pay offer this late in the year could have signalled the government doing all it can to address [the shortage],” Ms Burroughs said.

“Instead, the offer represents a real pay cut when inflation is more than 7 per cent. It would be irresponsible to do anything but decline.”

pay table

A table compiled by the union showing teacher salary increases. Image: AEU ACT Branch

On a positive note, Ms Burroughs did say this was the first time the government had indicated it was ready to engage in serious negotiations.

The current enterprise bargaining agreement expired last month and the union is hopeful the government will come back with an offer that addresses workload concerns as well.

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Yesterday (15 November), some Catholic school teachers stopped work between 8:30 am and 9:30 am to express their frustration about the speed at which their enterprise bargaining agreements were progressing.

Last week, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission handed down a decision to grant teachers in NSW public schools pay rises of 2.29 per cent in 2022 and 2.53 per cent in 2023.

While Catholic employers aren’t legally bound to follow suit, the Independent Education Union (IEU) NSW/ACT said they have long imposed the same wages on their employees.

The union has previously called for a pay rise of between 10 and 15 per cent over two years.

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IEU NSW/ACT Branch Acting Secretary Carol Matthews condemned these “derisory” increases.

“Teachers care deeply about their students and understand the inconvenience next week’s brief stop work will cause. They are left with no option but to take action in an attempt to bring their employers to the negotiating table,” she said.

“Staff shortages are already severe, and with COVID rearing its ugly head again, a response from employers is more urgent than ever.”

The union is also calling for better salaries for support staff in schools and a reduction in the administrative workload placed upon teachers.

It is also urging Senator David Pocock to back the Federal Government’s proposed industrial relations laws so independent teachers can also have the right to take legally protected industrial action like their counterparts in Catholic schools.

Those teachers are currently covered by multi-enterprise agreements and don’t have those same rights.

Some staff plan to question Senator Pocock this evening at his town hall event about why he is delaying the passage of the legislation.

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Enterprise bargaining meetings for public school teachers are expected to continue this week, with ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry declining to make any comment at this time.

The union will meet later this month to discuss any future action it intends to take.

Strikes are prohibited at various stages of the enterprise bargaining agreement.

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While this is a reasonable start to the negotiations the real crux of the problem is that in next 5 years there is the potential for a massive brain drain when people like me reach preservation age and seeing how our work conditions have deteriorated to such levels, will leave the profession to prolong our mental health.
This will not bode well particularly for public education as we need teaching mentors out there, like we had when we first started to ensure that our future students have the best chance in this ever-changing world environment. It does scare me

Are people that silly that think pays increase in a recession?

There is no locked in standard of living, those that want green choices and state wide lockdowns want the country to pay more but not effect their pay?

As we’re told in male dominated professions, diversity is an untapped resource. We should have more male teachers; the number of teachers would double overnight.
Its hard to find staff when you exclude half the genders.

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