Progress secured on teacher housing matters
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 6, 31 August 2018, page no.20
For well over two years, the QTU has been seeking a firm teacher housing policy and significantly updated procedures document.
While the QTU has been active and prepared, matters at the department end have frustrated the delivery and exhausted the QTU’s goodwill.
Because of the failure of the department to progress the development of a teacher housing policy or agree to the provision of an industrial instrument on teacher housing, State Council moved to initiate a coordinated campaign of industrial action in the form of coordinated one-hour stop work meetings in self-selected centres.
Further the Union called on the Department of Education to:
- provide a draft industrial agreement covering provision and management of teacher housing as a basis for department/Union negotiation
- provide a program of joint department/Union training for management of teacher housing to be made available and accessible for centres with teacher housing
- immediately reinstate the planned budget ($13.5M) for upgrades and maintenance to teacher housing
- implement the teacher housing connectivity program in a manner that ensures there is no financial cost (through taxation or otherwise) to teachers.
On 11 June, the department presented the QTU with a draft teacher housing policy and invited representatives to a two-hour meeting to workshop the draft.
As a result of the workshop, constructive progress was made. Significantly, the policy is now the Teacher Housing Policy (and not employee housing as in previous iterations). This is both symbolically and pragmatically important, as it recognises that the housing is provided for the purposes of attracting and retaining teachers to remote, rural and regional areas.
Over the past 12 months, there have been challenges with identifying appropriate housing for principals, including heads of campus. The draft policy sets out to clarify the entitlement of school leaders to accommodation and refers to a Teacher Housing Reference Group, which will problem-solve matters of contention on a case-by-case basis.
The QTU has ensured that the department’s draft is silent on tenure, as Union representatives noted that the whole of government housing policy covers this area and that should an issue arise, the matter could be worked through at the reference group level. Further, the draft policy notes that teaching housing is managed through a local accommodation committee chaired by a local accommodation officer. The policy will also have a clearly articulated disputes resolution process.
The draft policy captures the government priority for the provision of teacher housing in TR4 to TR7 locations. The policy makes reference to the discretion to provide subsidised housing in TR2-TR3 locations to meet government service or need. This is a very important, explicit inclusion.
Finally, in terms of the draft policy, the Union has ensured that it refers to the Teacher Housing Management Procedure 2018. This is a crucial document that needs to be updated and presented for QTU input as soon as possible.
In terms of the other resolutions from May State Council, the Union was informed (through state budget announcements) that the teacher housing upgrades and maintenance budget line item for 2018-2019 remains at $13.5 million (the original allocation). This is a significant outcome for members needing work undertaken on their accommodation. The department has reported that it is continuing to investigate the provision of improved internet connectivity to teacher housing in a manner that ensures no financial cost.
The QTU and Central Office have been fielding enquiries around the allocation of teaching staff to housing, where staffing has needed to change. The matters here are seriously exacerbated by out-of-date information and significant turnover in teaching staff in some rural and remote areas. There is significant work to do in this area but as a first, interim measure, the department has prepared a draft local accommodation committee and local accomodation officer training package and face to face training which is to occur in term three and early term four across the state. This is initial training which will inform a more developed package for the 2019 year.