24 February 2016: For QTU Union Reps and Principals in schools with departmental accommodation
In 2015 we communicated with you about optimisation and provided some advice about how LACs should interact with DET officers around this issue. In light of recent events involving optimisation, we have decided to communicate with you again. We also ask that you provide a copy of this email to your LAO.
The issue of optimisation has been raised regularly with the Department of Education and Training (DET) since early 2013. Given the new model of ownership in teacher accommodation, under which DET has to lease the majority of its accommodation stock from the Department of Housing and Public Works (DHPW), the QTU believed DET would seek to maximise occupancy in teacher accommodation (optimisation) in order to limit the number of leases and, therefore, the costs to the department.
The principle of optimum utilisation has been in DET’s Employee Housing Management Guidelines and Procedures for over a decade. However, when DET owned its accommodation, optimisation was seen as preference, not a necessity. The transfer of accommodation to the DHPW has removed the previous flexibility that LAOs and LACs had in relation to the allocation of accommodation to school staff, which enabled a range of factors to be considered. This flexibility has, in the past, enabled LACs to allocate accommodation to address a range of special circumstances, e.g. health issues, attraction and retention needs.
The QTU does not believe that LACs and LAOs should be placed under pressure by DET central housing officers to maximise or optimise occupancy above all other factors.
The QTU's State Accommodation Committee has requested that the QTU remind LACs that the department's Employee Housing Management Guidelines and Procedures state that the LAC has the responsibility to allocate units of housing, not DET officers based in central office.
Since sending our email in 2015, we have been informed of instances where the LAC view has prevailed over the DET central office view.
In addition, we are advising LACs to ensure that, even in cases where optimisation may be necessary and supported by the LAC, the following issues are also considered.
- TRS day support should be requested where members have to move residence during the year at short notice due to optimisation (the QTU is aware of a case where DET central office has recommended up to two TRS days to enable a teacher to organise the packing and removal of furniture and effects).
- Regional or central office support should be requested for other issues arising from an optimisation move, e.g storage. We are aware of a recent case of optimisation which resulted in a teacher being asked to move on short notice from an unfurnished to a furnished unit of accommodation and being told she was responsible for the cost of storing or moving the furniture. Again, DET central office has intervened and ensured she will not have to fund the storage costs.
The QTU makes the following recommendations.
- That QTU members who are LAOs and other members who are LAC members are requested to allocate accommodation based on consideration of a range of relevant criteria, including optimum utilisation.
- That when LAOs are requested or directed by central housing to change an allocation, such a request or direction and the reasoning for this request/direction be sought in writing and the request be the subject of consideration by the LAC.
- That QTU members in centres with an LAC consider requesting a QTU directive regarding the allocation issue if LAO or LAC decisions continue to be challenged by central housing officers.
If their allocation decisions are challenged, LAOs and LAC members should contact their QTU Regional Organiser in the first instance.
Thank you for the work you undertake in your role on the LAC.
Kevin Bates Jeff Backen
QTU President Assistant Secretary
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