Part-time teacher win: senior teacher dispute resolved
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 3, 14 April 2022, page no. 17
The QTU has succeeded in removing a barrier that threatened to block access to senior teacher for part-time educators.
Following the conclusion of the previous EB process (EB9), the QTU understood that the agreed removal of a clause that required full-time equivalent service for salary progression would apply to all teachers, including senior teachers (ST), experienced senior teacher (EST) and experienced senior teacher 2 (EST 2).
This was a significant win and change for our members and was a key component of our gender equity log of claims. Thus it was a major blow and shock when the employer backtracked in Certified Agreement Implementation Committee meetings. Relying on a key phrase in our award, it omitted senior teacher from the removal of full-time equivalency for annual progression.
This left senior teachers (and by consequence, EST and EST 2 teachers) who worked part-time as the only public servants in Queensland who still faced the full-time service requirement as a barrier to salary progression. The QTU wrote to the Director General, Education Minister Grace and the Premier. All to no avail.
Most of the teachers working part-time are women (95 per cent), who do so because of their care arrangements (as do many of the male teachers who work part-time). This provision would have been a great step forward for these members and would also have removed the antiquated view that part-time employees should serve a double penalty – reduced income (and superannuation) and the need for full-time equivalence to move up annual salary bands. This dud logic saw some teachers (mostly women) working continuously for 20+ years without reaching the senior teacher salary step.
As the employer saw this pay scale as a classification (which it is not), the Office of Industrial Relations informed the QTU that, despite our efforts, it was outside of the scope of the Queensland Government’s review of all state-based awards in late 2020 as part of its gender equity provisions.
The QTU lodged a dispute in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in Term 4 last year, citing a breach of equity provisions. Following a conciliation hearing on the matter, both parties agreed to an abeyance to resolve the matter of whether senior teacher was indeed a classification as the department continued to argue.
The hero of this story is our very own QTU Library. Librarian Megan Rolley provided QTU Officers with copies of the Queensland Government Gazette from 1997 and 1998, which outlined the outcomes of a 1997 arbitrated decision of the full bench of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. This clearly articulated that senior teacher was an allowance, and not a classified position and should be available to teachers following one year of service on the top salary step.
This artefact was shared with the Office of Industrial Relations and the department.
Negotiations continued, with the QTU keen to settle on only the following points:
- The removal of the requirement to meet the equivalent of full-time service from senior teacher, EST and EST 2
- Senior teacher to be available following eight years’ service, or one year’s service at the top of the salary scale (which is now eight years)
- Once finalised, these arrangements to be backdated to 1 January.
Agreement was finally reached, and after receiving written confirmation from the department outlining the above three matters, the QTU withdrew the dispute. An email communicating this win was sent to all part-time teachers and the news was also shared via a Newsflash.
This win positively impacts upon thousands of teachers who work part-time and will ensure that those who follow will not face this additional hurdle to reaching the top of the classroom teacher pay scale.
While the timeframes of the award review and implementation are not yet finalised, progression of the clauses is underway and the QTU will continue to keep members informed.
By Penny Spalding, Assistant Secretary Women and Social Welfare Issues