No teacher underpayment, workload a different matter, says government

Lottie Twyford 3 December 2021 35
Yvette Berry

Minister for Education Yvette Berry has accused the Opposition of deliberately misrepresenting a recent teachers survey. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The Opposition has had a motion to refer ACT public teachers’ pay and working conditions to the Fair Work Ombudsman shot down by the government.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry told the Assembly on Wednesday (1 December) that there was no “systemic underpayment of teachers in the ACT’s public system”. She accused the Opposition of deliberately misrepresenting the results of a recent teachers’ survey.

Opposition spokesperson for education Jeremy Hanson said teachers’ unpaid overtime was akin to “possible wage theft”.

He referenced an ACT Australian Education Union (ACT AEU) survey which revealed 97 per cent of respondents said they work more than their maximum weekly hours, including weekends, evenings, periods of leave or stand down.

A total of 79 per cent said they worked excessive hours every week, while one in three teachers said they considered leaving their jobs in the first three years because of the pressure.

The survey also revealed teachers regularly supply classroom materials and resources from their own pockets.

Mr Hanson said this was “shocking” and told the Assembly it could constitute a case of worker exploitation. He believed the Ombudsman was the right place to judge the situation and provide an impartial investigation.

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Mr Hanson largely blames the issues facing the education system on a lack of funding leading to a teacher shortage. He said the impacts of a stressed, over-worked teaching system will affect children’s education.

AEU ACT Senior Industrial Officer Patrick Judge said regardless of the outcome of the debate, he was pleased to see all three political parties acknowledging the seriousness of the teacher shortage problem.

“What we’re sure of is that teachers are being expected to put in hours of additional unpaid work every week during term time and in school term breaks,” Mr Judge said.

“Jeremy Hanson is right that this is overwhelmingly caused by the teacher shortage.”

However, Ms Berry argued the Opposition was simply seeking to score a cheap political point, given the ACT Government had already established a task force in August to tackle teacher shortages in response to the publication of the ACT AEU’s report earlier this year.

The task force is comprised of representatives of the Education Directorate and AEU.

The AEU’s survey showed 91 per cent of public school teachers who responded to the survey believe shortages negatively impacted their school.

Ms Berry refuted Mr Hanson’s premise for his motion, saying there is no systemic underpayment of teachers in the ACT’s public system, given the ACT’s public teachers have the “highest pay conditions” in the country.

Mr Judge said this may be the case at the moment, but that teacher pay along the east coast is broadly similar.

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Ms Berry argued an unsustainable workload was a different matter to underpayment or wage theft, but said real engagement with the union was underway to make changes.

“Teachers always go above and beyond for their students and that’s why it’s important that we listen to them and keep their workload sustainable,” Ms Berry said.

Mr Hanson said he understood teachers are hard-working but said the current situation had “crossed a line”.

“What’s being imposed on teachers now is unfair and unreasonable,” he said.

“Teachers are being asked to do too much.”

Ms Berry’s amendment to the motion called on the ACT Government to continue engaging with the union throughout the next enterprise bargaining agreement.

Mr Judge said this was of utmost importance to him and his members.

“What the teaching workforce needs are improvements to their pay and a reduction in their workloads that will attract more teachers to join or return the profession.”

ACT Greens spokesperson for education Johnathan Davis said it was time to give the union “whatever it wanted after the year [teachers] have had”. He told the government to “sell something, tax someone, find the money” to do so.

In his speech, Mr Davis later acknowledged that there may be more to it than simply “paying them more money” and that a wider range of issues affects the public education system than pay conditions.

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35 Responses to No teacher underpayment, workload a different matter, says government
Victoria Red Victoria Red 10:47 am 05 Dec 21

Sometimes I look at the students when they ask me maths questions and i wonder why their regular teachers didn’t teach them proper maths … sad really … most times they just leave maths out in primary schools

    Kimberly Lum Kimberly Lum 10:50 am 05 Dec 21

    Victoria Red I had a friend who’s daughter when she was in primary school (mostly year 5 and 6) didn’t do much maths in class because the teacher wasn’t comfortable teaching it… that blew my mind big time!! Then unfortunately she ended up missing the basic math skills and ended up requiring a tutor


Victoria Red Victoria Red 10:45 am 05 Dec 21

To tell you the truth being a teacher myself education in ACT has gone to the dogs … my kids do well as I’m a teacher myself and from overseas in a great country where students are really good in maths and science unlike here

Ruthy Rismanto Ruthy Rismanto 9:02 am 05 Dec 21

Agree with the Ombudsman. Workload can go back to normal if all teachers who still want to teach can work without discrimination on vax status.

    Justin Alexander Justin Alexander 11:19 am 05 Dec 21

    What nonsense! There was a critical shortage of teachers before the pandemic. The data on excessive workloads was gathered between 2018-2020. This isn’t something that has come about because of Health and Safety policies brought in to place in late 2021.

    That aside ITS NOT discrimination Supreme Courts in almost every state have held they are reasonable conditions of employment (and very very few teachers aren’t vaccinated far less than the shortfall in teachers).

    Bekah Glaz Bekah Glaz 11:58 am 05 Dec 21

    Justin Alexander I moved to ACT from WA, and couldn't get a job in teaching. There isn't a shortage of teachers, there is a shortage of positions.

    Justin Alexander Justin Alexander 12:56 pm 05 Dec 21

    Bekah Glaz there are drastic shortages in certain subjects (in some schools 70% of their “maths” teachers aren’t trained in maths), overall across primary and secondary in all of the Eastern states I would tend to agree there is a shortage of positions. Part of the shortage of permanent positions in NSW, VIC and ACT are some of the conditions which permanent teachers can take for granted like mothers being able to take Leave Without Pay with right of return to their school and position until their youngest child starts school (in an extreme case I have seen a position have to be filled year to year with temp engagements for 13yrs before the incumbent relinquished the position), or the ability to take 3 years LWOP with right of return.

Praveena Ryeanna Kaur Praveena Ryeanna Kaur 11:00 pm 04 Dec 21

what about early childhood educators?!😢😤😡

    Rachel Tara Rachel Tara 11:36 am 05 Dec 21

    Praveena Ryeanna Kaur they are talking about the unpaid hours , as in overtime, not pay rates in general. I’ve worked in early childhood education, now a primary school teacher. I work far more unpaid hours now than I did then.

Stacey Rene Stacey Rene 8:33 pm 04 Dec 21

Disappointing from ACT Government. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s the value of our educators.

Tim Evans Tim Evans 6:37 pm 04 Dec 21

I contacted 'Minister' Berry on the 8th November about some serious issues around compensation, injury and other concerns. Not a single response so far - not even acknowledgement of receiving the email. I've lost my career, home, vehicle and nearly my life because of these incompetent, unjust and inhumane people in charge of this government and department. Ms. Berry - where are you?

    Gloria Fardy Gloria Fardy 8:45 pm 04 Dec 21

    Tim Evans sorry for what you’ve been through.

    Tim Evans Tim Evans 9:58 pm 04 Dec 21

    Thank you.... it's ongoing and no good.

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 7:05 am 05 Dec 21

    Tim Evans thé union’s legal team would be the best ones to help you on this.

    Tim Evans Tim Evans 6:12 pm 05 Dec 21

    They were useless.

jwinston jwinston 4:42 pm 04 Dec 21

Paul Leins said “Like a Liberal government ever increased a workforce? ? Federal aps staffing caps are gone and yet departments are still pressured to make do with what they have. The Liberal way is to just keep demanding more from what they already have, until something snaps and then it’s somehow Labor’s fault.”

The Libs haven’t been in power for over 20 years – Labor are responsible for this mess.

    Clever Interrobang Clever Interrobang 10:22 am 05 Dec 21

    Agreed neoliberalism is a product of both parties working together to centralise power away from workers.

    It’s a shame that the Greens aren’t doing much here in the ACT despite sharing power with Labor for more than 12 years.

Matt Steele Matt Steele 4:14 pm 04 Dec 21

Teachers deserve so much more than what they get. The teachers I work with at gcs are more than teachers to the students they are nurses doctors psychologists security guards dieticians personal trainers mothers fathers brothers sisters and cousins plus so much more all in one. The sacrifices they make is phenomenal. Theysacrifice so much of their non working time its unbelievable. They deserve so much better than what they get

Clever Interrobang Clever Interrobang 4:11 pm 04 Dec 21

Anyone who’s smart and who has studied education and worked in schools will understand.

Teacher’s think they’re god’s gift and what’s never acknowledged is that (except for the ‘harder’ disciplines like mathematics) there’s a huge oversupply of teachers who cannot get full time employment and it appears it’s usually not the best and brightest that get these permanent secure jobs.

People in public sector employment often fail to realise how hard other people work often for a level of compensation that is not comparable.

That being said, bullying and discrimination in the workplace is wrong.

Andrew Duncan Andrew Duncan 2:03 pm 04 Dec 21

Ok. Then who is to be held accountable for teaching conditions in the ACT?

    Andrew Duncan Andrew Duncan 7:13 am 05 Dec 21

    So the Labor governments of past 20 years clearly have been fantastic. But if they are then why is there so much concern being expressed?

Carole Ford Carole Ford 1:26 pm 04 Dec 21

They're all about making school improvement plans, but when the teachers tell them what's needed to improve the schools, they cut school budgets and reduce the support staff hours. Then tell them to do more reporting and curriculum development!! This delaying and irrelevant response improves nothing, except the bottom line of the Directorate's budget! School buildings and school grounds need consistent maintenance and rehabilitation, many schools are very neglected.

Paul Leins Paul Leins 12:16 pm 04 Dec 21

Typical of the Libs - sideline the elected representatives and put it in the hands of a bureaucrat. Any angle to try and undermine the AEU and score points with their base.

Helen Kvalheim Stephenson Helen Kvalheim Stephenson 11:55 am 04 Dec 21

Since when does this opposition care about anything! This is just a ploy! We know what you’re really like!

    Andrew Duncan Andrew Duncan 2:04 pm 04 Dec 21

    You mean asking why there are issues in education? issues the labor party hasn’t addressed in 20 years?

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 12:59 am 05 Dec 21

    Andrew Duncan and you think the oppostion cares? They would be the first to cut teacher numbers and wages.

Dean Colwill Dean Colwill 11:22 am 04 Dec 21

Simplify the curriculum and get back to basics maybe.

Lea Powell Lea Powell 10:52 am 04 Dec 21

If you have not been a teacher and experienced this for yourself, regardless of system, you really have no right to comment. Ironic that a Liberal polly is commenting negatively about what has been a systemic debridement and outright abuse of teachers ( along with nurses, police and childcare ) over several decades. Yet, whilst deploring and attempting to blame others they refuse to acknowledge that core neoliberal ideology has caused this. Bloody funny really!

    Brian McKenzie Brian McKenzie 12:12 pm 04 Dec 21

    Lea Powell as tax payers we all have the right to comment

    Lea Powell Lea Powell 12:16 pm 04 Dec 21

    Brian McKenzie indeed but not on teacher conditions. Teaching is a nightmare unto itself in terms of hours of work done vs what is paid. ( consider at least double. ).

    Also consider a full time casual teacher who happens to be a single parent receiving benefits ( because of the job insecurity) is the only job where the hours paid means that full time work is equivalent to only part time hours, and thus the teacher whilst working full time must also then look for and apply for more work to make up the full time equivalent hours.

    Tony Westrych Tony Westrych 8:01 pm 04 Dec 21

    Lea Powell that’s the same in any industry.

Jimmy Stewart Jimmy Stewart 10:17 am 04 Dec 21

So under this government we have less Police, Teachers, Nurses per capita and longer medical wait times than any other state/territory…hmm.

Why do Canberrans keep voting them in?

    Lynn Nicholas Lynn Nicholas 11:13 am 04 Dec 21

    Jimmy Stewart lack of choice perhaps

    Paul Leins Paul Leins 12:12 pm 04 Dec 21

    Like a Liberal government ever increased a workforce? 😂 Federal aps staffing caps are gone and yet departments are still pressured to make do with what they have. The Liberal way is to just keep demanding more from what they already have, until something snaps and then it's somehow Labor's fault.

    Brad Adams Brad Adams 1:21 pm 04 Dec 21

    Jimmy Stewart but it’s ok, we have arts grants, inclusivity programs and all the other things to make up feel better. I mean, who really needs education, law enforcement, medical care or garbage removal?? These really are just frivolous wants. We have human rights and minority group commissioners to perpetually be offended for us.

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