Claims that aren’t remotely true

Vice President Stephen Pelizzo clears up a number of misconceptions about conditions and entitlements for remote members.

Remote schools are often characterised by high turnover and difficulty for principals in recruiting and retaining teachers.

The sense of isolation from mainstream culture and services, the drain on compassion from working daily with large proportions of students who suffer trauma, as well as not ever quite seeing kids gain the results you would in other situations, is challenging.

The AEU NT considers it appropriate that staff who work in these circumstances are well rewarded for this. We continue to fight for better conditions for remote staff and the appropriate application of existing entitlements.

Entitlements and conditions specific to members working in remote locations are set out in numerous instruments, among them the teachers’ enterprise agreement, OCPE Employment Instructions and By-laws and policies and procedures managed by the Department’s Human Resources division.

They include: rental subsidies, fares out of isolated locations (FOILS), remote incentive allowance, remote retention bonus, special study leave as well as the teacher in a special school allowance.

What we must guard against is a growing trend for junior administrators to “interpret” these policies and conditions. This is usually done in such a way as to limit, reduce or simply make more difficult for staff to access them.

When reported, the Full-Time Officers take up issues with senior departmental officers and these usually result in reasonable and agreed outcomes. However, this seems to struggle to filter down, meaning these same petty problems arise over and over again.

Here are some examples of misconceptions or outright falsehoods that we are aware of members having been told:

  • That FOILs can be to the regional center (as opposed to Darwin or Alice);
  • That on transfer, employee vehicles will only be moved to the regional centre (their responsibility to collect);
  • That new staff are not eligible for uplift on appointment over six months, and that on successful completion of a long-term contact, their relocation will not be back to a regional center;
  • That they cannot be in receipt of more than one allowance at once;
  • That they can’t apply for Special Study Leave unless they are currently working in a remote setting; and
  • That staff must apply for their Remote Retention Bonus.

All the above statements are not just a misinterpretation of policy. They are completely wrong. They undermine the intent of the policies and do not follow established practice.

Here is what you are entitled to:

  • FOILS will deliver you to a major center, e.g. Alice Springs or Darwin (unless you negotiate another arrangement);
  • Vehicles that are part of your uplift should be delivered to you;
  • New staff are eligible for uplift on appointment for more than six months, and on successful completion of long-term contact, your relocation will be back to a regional centre;
  • You are entitled to simultaneously claim two allowances, such as teacher in a special school and teacher in charge of a preschool;
  • Applications rounds for Special Study Leave are open twice per year and are assessed by a DoE committee (if any member is experiencing issues accessing this program please contact our office);
  • You are eligible to receive the Remote Retention Payment after the completion of 12 months continuous service in a remote locality (‘qualifying service’).

If you have cause to question advice around your entitlements, speak to your sub-branch rep or contact the AEU NT office for advice. For more information on working remote, check out our fact sheet.

This article was first published in the Term 2, 2019 edition of the Territory Educator magazine.