12 May 2023

Largest pay offer for ACT public teachers in two decades, with top salary reaching nearly $130k

| Claire Fenwicke
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school teacher in the classroom

Educators have been clear they’ve wanted better pay and more time to focus on teaching. Photo: File.

A revised enterprise bargaining agreement focused on attracting more teachers to the ACT has been agreed to, signifying the best pay deal for educators in the country.

The Australian Education Union’s ACT branch has accepted the revised offer after months of negotiations.

The final step now is for the government to put together the final, formal offer, which will be balloted to members and is expected to be agreed to.

President Angela Burroughs said while support wasn’t unanimous, members acknowledged it was the best teacher pay deal for any jurisdiction.

“This deal includes significant pay increases for teachers, with the starting salary for a new teacher increasing to $91,396 at the beginning of 2026 and top teacher pay reaching nearly $130,000,” she said.

“Even though the pay offer delivers more by percentage [increase] to newer teachers than experienced ones, our members feel this is the best way forward for an education system suffering acute staffing shortages.”

Union calculations stated the agreement resulted in an average 5.5 per cent pay increase across all teacher and school leader classifications, with the largest increases targeting early to mid-career teachers.

This reflected the largest pay increase for ACT public school teachers in two decades.

Ms Burroughs said the ACT had been the first jurisdiction to recognise the teacher shortage and this agreement made it the first to take “major tangible action” to address it.

“Changes to the salary structure benefit newly recruited teachers with increases of up to 8 per cent per annum, while mid-career salaries grow by as much as 8.7 per cent per annum,” she said.

“These are positive steps towards addressing the teacher shortage crisis.”

Ms Burroughs gave a glimpse into what would be on the table during the next enterprise bargaining negotiations in 2025, with the main focus adjusting from attraction to retention.

“Our experienced teacher, school leader and school psychologist members have a strong expectation that the ACT Government will look to measures to support retention over the next two years,” she said.

Casual teacher rates will increase to a new daily rate of $422 (casual rate 1) and $524 (casual rate 2) from 2024.

The union had rejected previous pay offers as it felt they didn’t represent the “immense responsibilities” and workloads of school leaders.

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Workload pressures are still a hot issue, with Ms Burroughs admitting there were still reservations about reduction measures included in the new proposal.

“Excessive workload remains an ongoing challenge in the context of a teacher shortage when there is little to no moderation of expectations of schools by the community,” she said.

This has been partially addressed with the introduction of three extra pupil-free days for teachers to focus on planning, student reporting, assessment and professional learning, to be applied on the first days of terms 2, 3 and 4 each year.

Maintenance of school buildings will also be taken off the plates of principals and centralised.

Ms Burroughs said these workload measures were just the beginning.

“Building on the recommendations of the Teacher Shortage Taskforce, our union will be meeting regularly with the employer and consulting with teachers and school leaders to identify further reductions to workloads,” she said.

“Our first priority will be identifying tasks that can be taken off schools and either discontinued or centralised to allow teachers and school leaders to focus on teaching and learning.

“Our members remain vigilant in holding the ACT Government to its word to make sure schools are safe and well-resourced, and that teacher and principal workload is reasonable.”

Superannuation contributions will also increase from the current 11.5 per cent to 12.5 per cent by the start of 2026.

These payments for paid or unpaid parental leave will increase from a maximum 52 weeks to 104 weeks of employer contributions.

Leave conditions will be boosted, with paid birth leave entitlements increasing from 18 to 24 weeks for eligible employees backdated to 1 January 2023, while bonding leave (which can be taken at half pay) will increase from three to six weeks.

The ACT will also become the first public sector jurisdiction in the country to offer assisted reproductive leave under the agreement, with five days allocated per year for those undertaking such treatments and associated medical appointments.

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Education Minister Yvette Berry said both the pay incentives and workload reduction measures were part of providing a “compelling reason” for more interstate teachers to consider a move to the Territory.

“The ACT is a great place to live and work, this teacher pay offer is the best in Australia,” she said.

“This offer also funds a range of workload reduction measures … demonstrating that the ACT Government is serious about delivering better workloads for our public educators, to help us retain the fantastic teachers already working in our schools.

“The ACT Government values our education workforce and this was reflected in the good faith negotiations and the final offer that was accepted.”

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For that pay, I would expect teachers not to give any homework

About time. Teachers should be more loved.

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