Work-to-Rule Advice

From this Friday (26 August 2022), the AEU NT is encouraging its school-based members to work to rule.

Who is encouraged to participate in this work-to-rule?

All school-based AEU NT members covered by the ‘NTPS Teachers and Assistant Teachers’ 2017-2021 Enterprise Agreement’, i.e., Assistant Teachers, Classroom Teachers, Senior Teachers and Non-Contract Principals.

All non-members are encouraged to join the AEU NT. Once confirmation of membership is given, please take part in our actions.

What is work-to-rule?

It is a form of industrial protest where workers only work their contracted hours and only attend to their mandatory paid duties within those contracted hours.

For Northern Territory teachers, mandatory duties include a certain amount of face-to-face teaching, administrative duties (such as marking rolls and assessments, responding to emails, lesson planning), student supervisory duties (such as yard duty) and meetings.

Work-to-rule means that teachers do not engage in work outside of their contracted hours. It also means that they do not work beyond the minimum that is required within those hours. For example, a classroom teacher of primary years students should not be doing more than 23 hours and 40 minutes of face-to-face teaching per week. Another example would be a teacher not accepting additional students into their class beyond the maximum limit of 27 students in a class.

What is the 'ordinary span of hours' for Northern Territory teachers?

The primary document which currently defines teachers’ work in the NT is the Teacher Responsibilities Guide (TRG)

36 hours and 45 minutes per week is the ordinary span of hours for a full-time teacher. This equates to 7 hours and 21 minutes per day. Page 5 of the TRG states that "teaching staff will arrive at school at least ten minutes prior to morning sessions". Because of teachers’ duty of care, there are no unpaid breaks for teachers during the day. Thus, if teachers are required to be at school at 7:50am, the daily span of hours for that school ends at 3:11pm.

Under normal circumstances, schools are flexible about end of day requirements. Indeed, the AEU NT has recently negotiated a more flexible approach to daily working hours in schools to assist with balancing personal and work commitments, as acknowledged on page 5 of the TRG. However, for the purposes of this work-to-rule action, the ordinary daily span of hours is 7 hours and 21 hours which should include all classes, duty of care responsibilities and meetings.

NB: A small number of remote schools operate a shortened school day on Fridays, so will need to calculate each of their 5 workdays accordingly.

What about meal breaks?

There should be 30 minutes during the day where teachers can have a meal. It might be during the scheduled breaks for students, or it might be during a period of non-contact time. If you have a timetable where you are scheduled for the full day without a break (with lessons, duties and meetings), then that timetable needs to be renegotiated.

Should teachers engage in voluntary/discretionary effort during this work-to-rule action?

If they want. The action is not about stopping teachers doing things they want to do. The action is about highlighting the untenable workloads under which teachers currently operate, and the absurd idea that a teacher’s work can be done within 36 hours and 45 minutes per week. It also important to expose any undeclared vacant positions currently being covered over by multiple individuals taking on additional workload.

What are some examples of work-to-rule actions?

  • Stop reading and responding to work emails outside of hours.
  • Leave meetings that run outside of hours.
  • Refuse to take meetings during non-contact time.
  • Decline to take on extra duties, especially those that have arisen due to colleagues working to rule or because the school is understaffed.
  • Choose a day where all teacher members leave school at the same time (and take a photo).
  • Stick to the one 1-hour meeting per week required in the TRG.
  • Let school management know that you might not be able to meet deadlines due to work-to-rule.

Are there any exceptions to work-to-rule?

YES. Anything in relation to duty ofare of students and student safety needs to take precedence. However, if schools notify parents that students will be supervised by teachers outside of the ordinary span of hours in order to force members to stay at school, the Union will view this as an attempt to undermine the industrial action and will take the matter to the Fair Work Commission. The Union notified the Department of Education on the 18th of August that this action would start on the 26th, so schools have had plenty of time to notify parents.

Why are only school-based teachers engaging in the work-to-rule?

Because flexible office-based conditions make it difficult for members to take such action. However, the AEU NT Office is happy to support office-based members who may have some suggestions about how work-to-rule could benefit them. Please ensure you contact the AEU Office, as the AEU Branch Secretary must notify the employer in advance of any action commencing.

For how long will this work-to-rule action last?

The AEU NT has notified the employer this is an on-going action, until further notice.

It is essential that members familiarise themselves with the Teacher Responsibilities Guide. Please read the Guide before contacting the AEU NT office with specific queries.

Questions regarding the action or the guide should be directed to the AEU NT Office: phone 8948 5399 or email Adam Lampe: [email protected]

In Brief:

We want the work-to-rule to broaden and deepen all members' understanding of the TRG and ensure it is being followed, in full, in every school. That should mean that any covered-up vacancy is exposed and that teachers can utilise its provisions to reduce their work pressures and have a better work-life balance for the sake of their long-term health.

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