Temporary teachers: COVID-19 and beyond
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 3, 11 May 2020, page no. 19
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that recent weeks have been particularly uncertain and unsettling for temporary teachers.
Our contract and supply members have faced a unique set of challenges that our permanent members, with their enhanced job security, have not had to deal with. That’s why the QTU has been actively advocating for temporary teachers during the crisis, whether through regular, daily contact with the Department of Education, or at a range of key stakeholder meetings.
As a result of this advocacy, the QTU was able to secure payment for supply teachers who missed out on work in week ten of Term 2. This was calculated by averaging the days worked in weeks eight and nine.
These weeks were selected because the QTU asked the department to conduct a sweep to see when the most TRS had been used by schools, and the results showed that the highest use of TRS had occurred in these weeks.
The QTU is currently advocating for a similar process in Term 2 to provide financial remuneration to supply teachers who have lost work.
The Term 2 Operating Guidelines for Queensland State Schools states: “Principals should develop a plan to have an additional 10-20 per cent relief staff available and trained in their school’s home-based learning approach to help manage any teaching staff absence”. However, the QTU understands that this is not the lived reality in schools.
Consequently, at time of writing, the QTU is working with the department on a review of the level of supply teacher engagement for the first two weeks of this term. If the data shows that the engagement of supply and temporary teachers is down on this time last year, the Union will work with the department to try and secure some relief for supply teachers.
Some members have informed the QTU that contracts that would otherwise have been ongoing had it not been for the pandemic, have been cancelled. The QTU has worked successfully with regional HR officers to reinstate the cancelled contracts, and has also ensured that contracts have been extended wherever possible, particularly where there would have been a reasonable expectation of ongoing work following conclusion of the engagement if the COVID-19 health pandemic had not occurred.
Temporary to permanent conversion process – MOA update
The QTU has also been working with the department to update the temporary to permanent conversion process.
The 2019 certified agreement reduced the service required for eligibility to conversion to permanency, from three years down to two. Consequently, the policies and processes supporting this need to be updated. Despite the QTU’s ongoing insistence that this occur as a matter of urgency, the department has delayed this significantly. This delay in consulting with the QTU has seen many temporary teachers understandably questioning their eligibility and whether they should have received an invitation to take part in the conversion process.
The QTU has sought an assurance that temporary teachers who have met that eligibility requirement as of 1 July 2019 will indeed be able to access the temporary to permanent conversion process. It is the QTU’s view that invites into the process should be backdated to 1 July 2019, in light of the department’s delay.
The QTU has now secured weekly meetings with the department to put the necessary systems in place. These negotiations are ongoing. In the interests of a timely outcome, the QTU’s Executive has urged the department to ensure a draft MOA is completed for presentation at the meeting of the Certified Agreement Implementation Committee in May.
The QTU asserts that teachers who have completed two years’ service as of 1 July 2019 and are thus eligible for conversion should be offered continuing employment until the new processes are implemented. Members are advised that it is good practice to keep a record of all correspondence in regard to this.
It has been a very busy time in the temporary teacher space. The QTU understands the unique issues that affect our temporary teacher members, and we will continue to make sure your voice is represented and advocated for.