Editorial: Election, EB and workload
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 4, 31 May 2019, page no. 5
One of the privileges of being Editor of the Journal is a more flexible approach to deadlines. And so I am able to write on the morning after the 2019 federal election.
Our hopes were dashed on a number of fronts: fair funding for schools; a new deal for TAFE; funding for pre-school education for three and four-year-olds; and better working rights for the overwhelming majority of Australian workers covered by the federal industrial relations system.
I want to thank the QTU members and community members who supported and participated in the three campaigns that the QTU supported: Fair Funding Now!; Put TAFE First; and the union movement’s Change the Rules campaign.
The result of the election in no way reflects the hard work of activists and volunteers over the past three years. It was not a matter of a five-week sprint during the election but an ultramarathon since 2016. Thank you to each person who played a part. You are heroes for standing up for state schools and TAFE, their students and their teachers, and for Australian workers.
Our cause is a just and worthy one: that every child, no matter their circumstances, has the opportunity to become the best that each can be. As former PM Julia Gillard put it; demography should not be destiny for students. In the end, our campaign was overrun in the hurly-burly of the election campaign. It does not seem to have been on voters’ minds – or a majority of them at least – when they came to vote.
Our commitment to the cause of equal opportunity for state school students continues. We will campaign on this issue again. For the moment, rest and recuperate with the satisfaction of having fought a good fight for a good cause.
EB gearing up
With the federal election out of the way, the undivided focus is on enterprise bargaining negotiations for members in the Department of Education (EB9) and in TAFE Queensland (EB10). Negotiations are well underway in both, but progress is limited.
Both agreements expire on 30 June. Nothing changes after that date, unless the Queensland Government applies to the Industrial Relations Commission to terminate the agreements, an unlikely event.
The hard deadline for negotiations is 31 July. The government’s wages policy is to backdate agreed increases only to the first day of the month in which in-principle agreement is reached. To have increases back-dated to 1 July – the earliest possible date – agreement has to be reached by 31 July.
Our claim for schools was endorsed in November last year and sent to the department in January. You can find a copy of the whole claim at www.qtu.asn.au/eb9, but there are four priority areas:
- a new pay and classification structure for everyone in promotional positions arising from the Promotional Positions Classification Review
- improved conditions for women teachers to address gender inequity
- real measures to address teacher and principal workload beyond the old “red tape enquiries” and the like
- salary increases to bring Queensland teachers up with or ahead of the rest of Australia.
At this time, an agreement by 31 July through negotiations alone is unlikely. Following QTU State Council on 25 May, the QTU is planning area meetings around the state to talk about EB. This is the lead-up to a ballot of members around the state on taking industrial action, probably in the form of a strike early in term three.
There has been discussion about government wages policy for more than 18 months now, but it remains stubbornly stuck at 2.5 per cent per annum. And so, we plan for the worst, and hope for the best.
There are no excuses for not taking the time to participate in the meetings and ballots about your pay and conditions for the next three years.
Workload tops the poll
I recently received the raw results of the QTU’s 2019 Member Needs Survey, which the QTU runs every four-five years as part of its strategic planning process. In the first five surveys, job security was the most important issue.
This time workload/stress was rated by the survey participants as the most important issue, with 53 per cent rating it as the most or second most important issue for them and 67 per cent rating the campaign on teacher/principal workload as the Union’s first or second most important campaign.
Salary was the second most important issue, with 23 per cent rating it one or two; student behaviour management was third with 16 per cent, and then job security at 15 per cent. Enterprise bargaining (42 per cent), Fair Funding Now! (19 per cent) and the Promotional Positions Classification Review (17 per cent) were the next highest ranked Union campaigns.
More about the results will be published in the near future. But the message about workload is very clear. Even before the results were in, the Union wrote to the Minister asking the government to make good on its pre-election promise for a review of teacher and principal workloads.
This issue will not be solved in this enterprise bargaining agreement or just by having a review. I’ve written often about this issue. But the journey of a hundred miles (hopefully not) continues with the next step.