No. 31-20, 15 July 2020 | DOWNLOAD PDF
To QTU Members
State government’s proposal in response to COVID-19 and pay deferral
At 2pm on Monday, the state government, through the Premier and the Education Minister, met with Senior Officers of the Union to provide a package of changes addressing a number of issues that the QTU has raised with them.
In response to member anger and lobbying in relation to the pay deferral, the government approached the QTU at the end of last term to discuss a proposal. Consequently, the QTU has been meeting with the Education Minister, Director-General and other government representatives over the past two weeks to negotiate a package of improvements focusing on workload reduction for teachers and principals. The QTU believed that these improvements could acknowledge and reward the exceptional work done by QTU members during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This was particularly important in the context of the government already having legislated to defer teachers’ and principals’ scheduled pay increase.
Before the government’s proposal was received, the QTU established a series of Zoom area meetings to brief members on the courses of action they could take in response to the state government’s legislated pay deferral.
At that time, these meetings were to consider the arguments for:
- opposition to the pay deferral
- a 24-hour strike to protest the deferral
- a series of work bans that would be directed specifically to workload reduction and the Union’s number one priority.
With the receipt of the proposal, which has short, defined timelines to provide workload relief for QTU members and aims to reduce workload demands at the national, state and regional levels, QTU Executive met to consider the package, and recommends that members now consider the government’s proposal.
The revised ballot will still gauge members’ acceptance or rejection of the pay rise deferral, as well as their acceptance or rejection of the government proposal. Industrial action will not be part of this ballot, though it will remain an option for a future ballot if sufficient progress has not been made on workload reduction.
The proposal by government is supplementary to the certified agreement. It does not replace the certified agreement but rather accelerates the processes to address workload reduction in the agreement. It also acts to address other issues that members asked to be considered as part of the initial work bans.
- Additional leave - Two days additional leave for everybody during this year’s summer vacation. Schools finish two days early. If you're in the north and west of the state, that means you will be finishing on 2 December rather than 4 December, and if you're in the south and east, you will be finishing on 9 December, rather than 11 December.
- Education Council issues:
a. NAPLAN – A formal commitment on the part of the government to argue for the replacement of NAPLAN at the National Education Council in September this year.
b. A review of the Australian Curriculum - Advocacy at the Education Council for decluttering of the Australian Curriculum. Members have identified that the curriculum is overloaded. The Australian Curriculum needs to be discussed at a national level, but not on the basis of eliminating subjects or in an overly simplistic “back to basics” way – there must be a genuine review of the Australian Curriculum.
- Curriculum, assessment and reporting changes – A review of the Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Framework (CARF), with the specific intention of workload reduction. The review will cover, at the very least, a reduction in the amount of mandated assessment, rationalisation of reporting, rationalisation of data collection and keeping, the impact of pedagogical frameworks (prime works) on workload, and the amount of workload associated with planning for teaching.
- Streamlining data and information collection – the department will work with the QTU in Term 3 to rationalise the requirements associated with school improvement and individual accountability processes at a system and regional level, with the specific intent of reducing workload associated with these processes. This review of the school accountability regime will cover, at the very least, school reviews and the associated processes, annual performance reviews, school opinion surveys, school annual reports, general departmental data collection, and the setting of multiple objectives for schools, principals and teachers by different levels of the bureaucracy – that is, addressing the demands that multiply as they cascade through the state schooling system.
- Temporary teachers - Recognition of continuity of employment for the purposes of conversion to permanency for temporary teachers whose employment and continuity was affected during COVID-19.
The impact of the pay deferral on the superannuation payment on retirement of members of the QSuper defined benefit scheme has been addressed. In correspondence to all unions, the Under Treasurer has provided assurance that payments upon retirement made under this scheme will be treated as if the increases due on 1 July this year had been paid. This commitment will remain in place for the duration of the pay deferral. Everyone’s superannuation circumstances are different. It is important to note that the recognition of salary increases for superannuation purposes applies only to those members in the defined benefit scheme. For advice in relation to the impact of the deferral on your superannuation, the QTU recommends that you seek personal financial advice.
It is important to note that the timelines for the reviews are set and short. Progress toward workload reduction must be achieved by the end of Term 3. QTU State Council will consider the progress made at its meeting on 22 August. If the Council believes that the progress has been insufficient, it will consider what steps may be necessary to secure the workload reduction promised by this package. These steps may once again include industrial action in the form of work bans.
From the Union’s point of view, with the reviews of the CARF and the school accountability regime both being conducted during Term 3, we expect changes to be identified and made before the government goes into pre-election caretaker mode on 3 October. While the reviews may not deliver all the necessary changes to the CARF and school accountability regime by the end of term, we would expect that, by that point in time, tangible, concrete proposals that will reduce workload should have emerged.
The proposal also addresses matters that contribute to workload at a national, systemic and regional level. In the workload reduction strategy <42, the QTU has identified that workload is impacted by these three levels, as well as school, individual and community expectations. In addressing some of the workload created at the national, statewide and regional level it is expected that tangible workload reduction will be achieved.
While these reviews are being finalised, the Workload Advisory Council (WAC) submission process will continue, and members are encouraged to continue making submissions. The Term 3 reviews will not be locked up in the WAC process, they will be clear, broad-ranging, and distinct from this process. The reviews have not been established to tinker at the edges of the issues, but to have a real effect on workload.
Prior to the school holidays, the QTU established meetings to consider a ballot for industrial action. A strike and work bans were proposed when the government had put nothing “on the table” except a pay rise deferral; now it has proposed this new workload reduction and temporary teacher protection package.
In considering the package and recommending it to members, QTU Executive recognised that the review of the CARF will have an impact on the workload of classroom teachers and heads of programs with responsibility for curriculum implementation, and that the review of the school accountability regime will have a measurable impact on the workload of school leaders.
The package also reflects several issues that were identified by members as potential subjects for work bans. The package goes some way to addressing national, system and regional impacts on workload, which will hopefully address these issues without the need for work bans.
Some members have proposed a 24-hour strike as the best response to the pay deferral, which is why the strike question was included in the original planned ballot, to allow all members to have their say. Members need to be aware that a strike would serve no purpose other than protesting the changes to legislation. It would not change the outcome of the legislation.
The potential acceptance of the package does not change the QTU’s view that the pay deferral, and the decision to impose it through legislative means, was wrong, remains wrong and will always be wrong.
What does the deferral do?
Initially proposed as a pay freeze, the state government revised this proposal and legislated to allow for agreements to be varied to disrupt the timing of increases in the salary schedules.
For QTU members, this means that the salaries paid arising from the 1 July 2019 increases and restructure will continue to be paid in 2020.
The salary and allowance increase scheduled for 1 July 2020 will be realised on 1 July 2021 and the salary and increase and changes to the classification structure scheduled for 1 July 2021 will occur on 1 January 2022. Effectively a delay in pay increases of 12-18 months.
The deferral does not delay the roll out of other improvements in conditions contained in the agreement and does not delay salary increments (annual progression) contained within the award.
Following the Zoom area meetings being conducted this week, a ballot regarding the acceptability of the governments package will open next week.
The ballot will ask members the following two questions.
- Do you oppose the state government’s pay freeze/deferral?
- Do you accept the government’s proposals to address workload issues, including:
- an additional two days leave at the end of the 2020 school year
- a commitment to advocating for a replacement to NAPLAN
- a review of the CARF during Term 3 which results in workload reduction from the commencement of Term 4
- the streamlining of data collection, which will require a review of the school accountability regime during Term 3, with workload reduction from the commencement of Term 4
- continuity of service for temporary employees to be unaffected by COVID-19?
The ballot will be open for one week and will close on Friday 24 July. Votes will be counted, and the information will be published to members.
As the proposal allows for 10 weeks for the reviews of the CARF and school accountability measures, the QTU will commence work with the department on the reviews.
If members do not accept the government’s proposals, Executive will consider what course of action should be taken, including considering balloting for a full-day strike and workload bans.
The ballot will be conducted online – not at workplace meetings. Members are encouraged to update their details through MyQTU and click on “manage my membership” to ensure that the QTU has your preferred email address. Please note that the platform being used for the ballot is not accepted by Hotmail. If members have a Hotmail address as their preferred account, they are encouraged to amend these addresses for the purposes of this ballot.
- On the QTU home page (www.qtu.asn.au) click on the blue myQTU button at the top right hand side of the screen or go directly to www.qtu.asn.au/myqtu
- Login using your QTU member number and password
- Click on the green “Manage your membership” button
- Scroll down to the “Contact” section and click on the teal “Update contact” button
- From here you can add or amend your work and/or alternative email address and choose which is your preferred email.
QTU emails are usually sent to the preferred email address you specify.
Members are encouraged to attend their relevant Zoom area briefing to hear further details of the proposal. Additionally, the QTU will provide further information on the QTU website during the week. Reminder emails will be sent to members early next week in relation to the QTU ballot.
The values enshrined in the motto of the French Revolution, Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité (Solidarité), continue to underpin the democratic work of trade unions throughout the world. On Bastille Day, the national day of France, the QTU acknowledged workers in France have the right to disconnect from digital communication.
To celebrate Bastille Day, Tuesday 14 July, QTU members were urged to set up an automatic reply for all eq.edu.au email accounts.
QTU’s recommended email automatic reply
Today, Queensland Teachers’ Union members are celebrating Bastille Day, France’s national day. Workers in France have the right to disconnect from digital communication, including out of hours email.
In Queensland, the state government believes time management strategies are about identifying where employees should focus energy to achieve better results.
Today, in recognition of France’s right to disconnect, I will be focusing on planning lessons and teaching my students, rather than replying to emails.
The QTU’s workload reduction campaign has identified six levels that contribute to workload, including national, state, regional, community, school, and individual.
The QTU’s 2018 Teacher Workload Survey showed that more than 50 per cent of teacher and heads of program participants indicated that reducing their digital communication load would help to manage workload. Throughout 2020, QTU members have continued to list email overload as a source of excessive workload.
The state government has the power to switch off email servers out of hours. There are companies in Europe where this occurs, to preserve their employee’s right to disconnect. In the absence of a block on emails arriving, the QTU respects the professional autonomy of our members to make decisions about prioritising tasks, including which emails to respond to and the appropriate type of response.
Between a systemic response and a QTU member’s professional autonomy, schools can work through the local consultative committee to develop workplace protocols which place downward pressure on workload arising from digital communication. Click here to see how a UK school shut down emails to reduce workload.
Unlike France and other European nations, there are no legislative provisions at the federal or state level that recognise Queensland teachers have the right to disconnect. However, clause 2.17.1 of the Department of Education State School Teachers’ Certified Agreement, 2019 states: “The department is committed to providing effective work practices that support wellbeing, work-life balance and a safe work environment. As far as practicable, the work of an individual teacher is not to be unreasonable or excessive.”
- Schedule six of the agreement contains the “Principles of good workload management”, which include:
- Understanding that all employees and managers are accountable for effective workload management; andSupport decisions that take into account the work-life balance of employees.
The QTU’s recommended email auto-reply includes the sentence, “… time management strategies are about identifying where employees should focus energy to achieve better results.”
Authorised by Kate Ruttiman, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union
21 Graham Street, Milton, QLD, Australia, 4064