QTU President
Kevin Bates

New EB7 offer - members to decide

The new EB7 offer represents an acceptable outcome in the current political and economic climate.

Members have been discussing and debating the proposed new agreement and raising concerns with the QTU on details of the proposed agreement. A number of themes have emerged from this discussion and it seems appropriate to address some of these issues for the attention of the membership more broadly.

Negotiations

Negotiations for a new enterprise bargain began in earnest in April this year with preliminary work being undertaken from as early as November 2011.

Six months of negotiations, including more than eight weeks of negotiations under the supervision of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC), were required to produce the proposed agreement. The most recent negotiations have been very intense and involved dealing with the full range of issues from the current certified agreement (2010) and the claims of the parties.

Member action

Negotiations do not occur in a vacuum. The actions of QTU members across the state -particularly mass rallies, meetings with local Members of Parliament, hundreds of letters, phone calls and emails to MPs, and a clear determination by members to undertake industrial action - all contributed to the LNP Government finally accepting that it needed to move from the one and only offer to teachers made in June.

The Government suffered a significant blow with the failure of their Independent Public Schools scheme to attract sufficient nominations to fill even the first 30 places to commence in 2013. This was closely followed by an overwhelming vote in support of protected industrial action. 

In media comment on the new offer, the Government admitted that it had had to make significant compromises to their original position in negotiations to avert the protected industrial action planned for 16 October 2012.

Start date of proposed agreement

The start date of the proposed new agreement is 1 September 2012. The QTU has always been conscious in enterprise bargaining negotiations that the 1 July operative date is important for superannuation purposes.

The QTU made every effort to get the Government to agree to a start date of 1 July 2012 but they were not prepared to move on this issue. Government wages policy under the LNP Government, as it was with the previous Labor Government, is for salary increases to commence from the first day of the month in which “in-principle” agreement is reached. The operative date of 1 September 2012 is the best that could be negotiated.

The only other offer made to teachers, from early June 2012, was put to members in a ballot. The reason for the ballot was to try to preserve a start date of 1 July if members had accepted the offer of 2.7% in return for the sacrifice of more than 20 working and learning conditions. Members overwhelmingly rejected that offer and the start date of 1 July was lost as a consequence. This issue was clearly articulated to members at the time.

If the new offer is rejected by members then it is likely that arbitration will be the only available course of action. The Vice President of the QIRC has indicated that it would not be possible to convene a full bench of the Commission to hear our matter before August 2013 and an outcome would not be likely before some time mid-way through 2014. Any salary increase awarded would be from the date of decision as the Government intends to oppose any interim salary increase application made by the QTU. This scenario would mean that members would go without a salary increase for three years and it would have an even greater impact on superannuation entitlements as a consequence of the delay.

Permanency safe

The Newsflash to members from 3 October describes the fact that the Newman LNP Government has legislated away any job security provisions from Awards and Certified Agreements.

Job security is distinctly different from job tenure or permanency. The Newman Government legislation removes all clauses relating to maximising permanent employment, restrictions on forced redundancies or restrictions on outsourcing. This does not impact in any way the permanency of teachers who already have permanent status. Superannuation entitlements are similarly unaffected by these changes.

It does allow the Government to force public servants to take redundancies and it removes the restrictions from the Government that would prevent outsourcing services such as cleaning or the employee advisory service.

The new offer for teachers specifically guarantees that the memorandum of agreement on the temporary to permanent conversion process won in the last EB agreement will continue to operate. So, teachers on temporary engagements for three years must still be offered a permanent position on the same terms that exist in the current agreement.

Government claims dropped

Two significant elements of the Government claims not related to working conditions directly that have been dropped from the new offer include the freeze on beginning teacher salaries and the ridiculous requirement for all teachers to undergo an annual assessment of performance by the school principal to certify that they have acted with “satisfactory conduct, diligence and efficiency”. Annual salary increments will continue in accordance with current practice, i.e. increment automatically awarded unless the employee is under a managing unsatisfactory performance process at stage 2 and above.

Protected industrial action

The protected industrial action (24-hour strike and work bans and limitations) planned for 16 October has been deferred to allow the ballot on the offer to occur. The QTU intends to seek an extension of the period available to take protected industrial action for the maximum 30 days allowed under the current legislation. This would allow protected industrial action to occur any time up until 19 November 2012.

Members will decide

The Executive and Senior Officers of the QTU have carefully considered the new offer from the Government. In addition to the potential delay in any salary increase until 2014, a recommendation to accept the new offer is based on two key issues:

  • the offer retains teachers' working conditions in enforceable instruments (remembering that the government wanted to take away the protections and to move the conditions into "policy"); and
  • each of the more than 20 working conditions retained in the government's latest offer would be up for grabs in arbitration, so there would be NO guarantees that conditions such as class sizes would be safe in the final determination of the QIRC.

More strength to this recommendation arises from a recent decision of the QIRC in a public service arbitration (Main Roads Department) which delivered a 2.5% salary increase as the final outcome. The union claim in that matter was for 6% and the Government offer was 2.5%. This case had commenced under the previous Labor Government, prior to changes to the Industrial Relations Act introduced by the Newman LNP Government that will make it harder to sustain a claim for salary increases above government wages policy.

Ultimately, as with the first offer made in June, members will vote in a school-based secret ballot on whether they wish to accept the new offer. The QTU will be bound by this decision of members as the final determination of whether the new offer becomes the basis for a new agreement.

Members should remember to check back with the QTU website regularly, particularly the frequently asked questions, to read the most current information.

Kevin Bates, President
9 October 2012