Issue No. 11 - 8 August 2016 | Download as PDF

EB8 and temporary teachers

One of the key issues for the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) in the negotiation of a new enterprise bargaining agreement this year is the maximisation of permanent employment.  A component of enterprise bargaining agreements since 1997, this clause was prohibited by Newman government legislation in 2012 and could not be included in the 2012 EB agreement.

Subsequently, the levels of temporary employment have been increasing to unacceptable levels, in spite of the process negotiated by the QTU of offering permanency after three years of continuous temporary employment.  That increase in temporary employment cannot be explained by more teachers being on leave or any other legitimate reason.

Maximisation of permanency

The new offer includes the following clause on maximisation of permanency:

“Maximisation of permanency and 3 year conversion

  1. In accordance with current state government policy, the Department reaffirms its commitment to the maximisation of permanent employment and the maintenance of job security for permanent employees.  As such, temporary teacher numbers as a proportion of teacher establishment numbers will be carefully monitored with a view to identifying any significant data that would exceed current levels of temporary employment.

  2. Whilst the Department will commit to restrict temporary or casual employment to bona fide short-term engagements (12 months or less), the Unions recognise the need to maintain the use of temporary or casual employment in respect of vacancies for transfers or bona fide short term projects.  As such the parties recognise the use of temporary and casual employment as legitimate organisational options. 

  3. Where a temporary teacher is engaged for three years continuous service in the same role or cumulative service of three years in the same role, provided that breaks in employment do not exceed a total of three months in the previous years will be eligible for conversion to tenured status under a process agreed between the parties

  4. Where an individual case or a trend has been monitored of an alleged inappropriate temporary or casual engagement, the issue shall be raised in the first instance with the Principal and, if still unresolved, with the regional office and then central office, if required.  If still unresolved, the issue may be referred to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission or the Public Service Commission as appropriate.

  5. During the life of the agreement the parties agree to explore and implement options regarding the conversion of temporary employees under school-purchase arrangements with a view to maximising permanent employment.”

The initial Union claim was for an offer of permanent employment to be made after two years of continuous temporary employment, rather than the existing three years.

In the final negotiations, the QTU agreed to retain the three year timeframe for a guaranteed offer of permanent employment on the basis of a more active process of appointing teachers on a permanent basis initially.  This includes:

  • the department’s commitment to restrict temporary employment to bona fide engagements of 12 months or less (clause 2)
  • a dispute process to address individual cases or trends of inappropriate temporary employment (clause 4)
  • a specific review of permanent employment for teachers in school-purchased positions (clause 5).

The last point is particularly significant given the employment of teachers under Investing for Success (I4S) (formerly Great Results Guarantee) funding distributed to schools.  This funding, whatever its name, is Gonski funding won by the lobbying efforts of teachers, principals and parents over a number of years.  When it was first distributed to schools, there was no certainty of funding from year-to-year.

Consequently, schools had problems committing to programs and to permanent employment for those employed to provide them.  The Union has consistently argued that the “risk-management” of permanent employment for those teachers is a system responsibility rather than that of a school.  

In 2015, the Union wrote to the incoming government seeking the allocation of the additional I4S funding on a transparent, negotiated, on-going basis, to ensure that schools could commit to programs and to permanent employment.  That funding allocation model was negotiated by the QTU and the department in 2015, and the funding has been allocated on a consistent basis for 2016-7 and will be into the future.

Having removed impediments to permanent appointment, the final step is to negotiate a process for that to occur.  The new offer specifically addresses this concern.

The guarantee of an offer after three years of continuous temporary employment remains as a safety net, but the new offer provides a number of processes and grounds for earlier permanent appointment.  Enforcement of these provisions is an ongoing issue, but the QTU is committed to maximising permanent employment for those members seeking it.

Other proposals concerning temporary teachers

Some provisions that had been claimed and negotiated into previous EB agreements, concerning the minimum length of a temporary engagement and payment for summer vacations, have now been included in the new award – the Teaching in State Education Award 2016 (see particularly sections 8.4 and 19.1(d) of the award).  The conditions continue to apply – they are simply in a different document.

The new offer also has a more extensive section on temporary teacher professional development.

The QTU has received a number of reports over time of temporary teachers being “encouraged” to attend the student free days at the start of the year, but not being paid because the temporary engagement had not started.  The final negotiations produced a new clause that teachers engaged for a semester or more at the start of the year would be required to attend and be paid for the two mandatory student free days.

The clause in the new offer also includes existing provisions for temporary teachers to participate in school and regional/cluster professional development as a way of meeting the CPD requirements of continuing teacher registration.

General provisions of the offer

The salary increases in the offer apply to temporary teachers as well.  For every step on the classroom teachers salary scale, the increase is more than 2.5 per cent in the third year of the proposed agreement.

The offer restores a commitment that class sizes will only exceed the agreed targets in exceptional circumstances, and only after genuine consultation at a local level.  The offer also re-asserts teacher control over the use of the award (minimum) entitlements to non-contact time, specifically for tasks related to preparation and correction, as a factor in addressing teacher workload concerns.  There is a provision for replacement of non-contact time where it cannot be accessed due to planned school activities.

More detailed information about these and other elements of the offer can be found in general communications to members and on the QTU website.

Voting on the offer and alternatives

Financial QTU members, including temporary teachers, will be able to vote whether or not to accept the offer in a school-based ballot similar to that recently conducted for industrial action.  The QTU Executive – 14 elected school-based members and five full-time senior officers – recommend that this offer be accepted.

The alternative is to pursue the industrial action endorsed by members in the recent ballot.  There is little prospect of further negotiations given the levels of government at which this offer was approved, so the Union’s claims are likely to be referred first to conciliation and then to arbitration in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.  The 1 July date of commencement will certainly be lost with no decision or increases possible before 2017.  The outcome of any arbitration is, of course, uncertain. 

Date claimer: Thinking on Your Feet conference

The Beginning and Establishing Teachers’ Association (BETA) is hosting its annual relief and contract teacher conference at Stretton State College, Stretton on Saturday 20 August.  The conference is highly regarded, and particularly focuses on professional development for temporary and supply teachers.  The keynote address is being delivered by renowned education consultant Tony Ryan.  Workshops are presented by practicing teachers and school leaders. 

For further information, including the conference program and registration details, follow this link:  A very worthwhile experience.

 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union