From the President: Service deserves respect

Teachers and principals work in almost every community across Queensland to deliver education, a critical government service and public good. Living and working thousands of kilometres from what was formerly “home”, with whole families relocating, has always presented personal and professional challenges. In the current era it is increasingly presenting a financial challenge as well.

Over the past several weeks I have had the privilege of again visiting teachers and principals in some of the most remote schools on Cape York and far western Queensland. Time and time again it has been made clear to me that the current system for attraction and retention of teachers and principals, won by QTU members through several historic campaigns, is in need of a complete overhaul. This system is founded on three key planks.

  • Transfers (teachers) and relocations (promotional positions) – ensuring that teachers and principals can rely on their employer to move them to a desired location following a period of service in a non-preferred location
  • Remote area incentives and locality allowances (cost of living) – financial compensation for living and working in remote and isolated communities and incentives to encourage people to stay beyond a minimum service period
  • Employee housing including subsidised rent – housing of a reasonable standard that provides a comfortable place to live away from school while completing service in a rural, remote or difficult to staff centre.

All of these components have been achieved within the past 50 years, and most during my life as a teacher: the past 30 years. None of these benefits has been delivered by government, the employer, without members taking action in QTU campaigns.

Each of these components is meant to deliver a real benefit to teachers and principals. Each is needed because unlike most other jobs, teachers are required by their employer to work in centres that are not their home or preferred place of residence. Ultimately, this is necessary for the government to meet its obligation to every community to provide access to education. As we face a period of significant teacher shortages, the significance of effective attraction and retention benefits will be brought into sharp focus.

A key outcome of the 2016 enterprise bargaining agreement was to institute reviews of remote area incentives and transfers and relocations. In order to construct a more effective system of attraction and retention for rural, remote and difficult to staff communities, we need to achieve real change through these processes and through campaigning on the issues once again.

The QTU believes that the working conditions of teachers equal the learning conditions of students. It is also a fundamental belief that the living conditions for teachers impact on their efficacy as educators.

Teachers and principals working through their Union have won these benefits in the past and our unity in this cause can accomplish real change for generations of teachers to come. I look forward to your involvement in the interests of our profession.

Kevin Bates                                                                                                               President

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 3, 14 April 2017, p7