Editorial: You can’t buy that for a dollar
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 2, 31 March 2023, page no. 5
As March draws to a close, I notice the usual online noise from a business selling memberships trying to convince teachers and school leaders that they are a real Union and can do what the QTU does, only cheaper.
Don’t be fooled – ads suggesting an alternative that can do what the QTU does for less are misleading. When I was younger, my dad taught me “buyer beware”. He suggested that if you take the cheapest option, you often get what you paid for. I think it applies here.
First things first. The QTU is the only registered organisation in Queensland that can represent the industrial, legal and professional interests of teachers, heads of program and school leaders. Under the definition in the Queensland Act, we are the only Union for our profession in the state system. A decision handed down by Queensland Industrial Relations Commission Vice-President Dan O’Connor in 2021 was pretty clear: organisations like the one currently purporting to be a Union did not have the same history or make up.
In fact, it’s my view that organisations such as these don’t have the heart of unionism, the power of the collective. This truly is the value proposition of the QTU – together we achieve so much.
We speak a lot about being the most democratic voice of the teaching profession in state education. We talk about the professional, industrial and legal representation the QTU provides. As a registered organisation, the QTU is at the table when decisions are being made. The sound of 48,000 members rings loudly when negotiating and working with the government – the largest employer in the state. If you are not part of a registered organisation such as the QTU, you don’t have a right (or a capacity) under state law to be part of these decision-making processes. Only the QTU has a voice on the QCAA, QCT and in EB negotiations. As a real union, we have the right to organise, enter school premises and take industrial action.
I recently attended the Sunshine Coast Area Council, and it was interesting to hear how members, working together at a school level, have been able to secure improved conditions, implement the certified agreement, and ensure health and safety in their schools. Among the examples were directives against parents and students for disruptive behaviours, which resulted in additional support from regional and central office. Others were unique to the setting, such as building collaborative planning time into the timetable, taking action to release all teachers from the responsibility of playground duty, and campaigning to secure crossing lights outside school to not only ensure the health and safety of members and students, but reduce the need for additional staff on bus duty after school.
Most of the wins came through identifying an issue, working with the school leader to explain the issue, and then working together to achieve additional resources or a different way of doing things to address the issue. The value of attending Union training was also discussed, including one example of a member who had been reminded that she was entitled to recognition of prior service as a teacher. With Union advocacy, her classification was reviewed and she received her back pay.
On a state level, we are celebrating the winning of salary progression for part-time employees, changes to incentives for teaching in rural, regional and remote parts of Queensland, and enhanced provisions for our community teachers.
The QTU is at the table where decisions are made in schools too. As the Union for teachers and school leaders in Queensland’s state schools, we are the party to the industrial instruments, and as such members are represented on workplace local consultative committees (LCCs). Other organisations may try to convince you that they are there too, but by law, they are not.
So, when someone tells you that another organisation can be the industrial, professional and legal voice of the profession in state schools and TAFE, they are misinformed. In fact, the department itself is clear that an organisation that is not a registered employee organisation:
is not, and is not entitled to be, a party to an award or certified agreement made with the Department of Education
- is not able to represent the industrial interests of employees who are covered by the Teaching in State Education Award – State 2016 and the Department of Education State School Teachers’ Certified Agreement 2022
- does not have standing to be a union party in any grievance/dispute resolution process set out in these industrial instruments
- is not permitted to display any material in the workplace that may imply that it is a union or able to represent the industrial interests of an employee.
While the Queensland Government Commitment to Union Encouragement Policy encourages union membership among state government employees, these businesses are not covered as they are not an industrial organisation in terms of the state act.
So what’s the real value of being part of the QTU? It’s you. Together, as a collective working with and for members, our strength lies in our members.
As in many things, my Dad was right.Beware of cheap imitations - nothing beats the real thing!