Member Bulletin Number 10 2021

In this bulletin:

  • Enterprise bargaining update – General agreement offer
  • Enterprise bargaining update – teachers
  • Rally against the pay freeze – Tuesday 21 September
  • Teacher transfer time
  • Branch Executive elections update – nominations opening
  • Federal Women’s Conference – register now
  • Arthur Hamilton Award for excellence in Aboriginal education
  • State of our Schools survey

Enterprise bargaining update – General agreement offer
The Commissioner for Public Employment has made a formal offer to unions covering workers employer under the NTPS General enterprise agreement (EA), which includes school-based administrative officers, trade trainers, school counsellors and office-based admin staff (but not teachers, ATs and principals – see update below). The general agreement is by far the largest NTPS EA, covering more than half the public sector. This agreement notionally expired last month.

The Commissioner’s offer includes some minor improvements to general public sector employment conditions. Most of these are welcome and are overdue for inclusion in a modern enterprise agreement. They mostly only affect small numbers of employees and are a “no cost” change to overall conditions.

However, most of the claims lodged on behalf AEU NT members have been rejected. These include:

  • Failure to clarify how recreation leave and stand down technically operate for employees on school-based conditions;
  • A refusal to include clauses to establish basic rights in promotion and selection processes;
  • Key remote school entitlements to remain outside the agreement.

The only AEU claim that has been met is agreeing to develop a statement that a teacher’s duty of care over students cannot be delegated to AOs for full lessons.

Most significantly, the NT Government remains committed to a four-year pay freeze. The so-called pay offer is still a pitiful $1000 annual retention payment not indexed to salary.

The Commissioner fails to point out in her offer that the bonus is taxable, so employees won’t even receive the full $1000 amount per annum.

The pay freeze will fall hardest upon our support staff members, who earn as little as $56,261 per annum (A02 preschool assistant). One of our support staff members emailed us with the following response to the offer: “For most non-teaching staff, especially in primary schools, wages are only just above the breadline and now to be expected to accept a $1000 one-off payment each year for the four years before tax is a slap in the face. Most staff working in this field do so because they love working with children and feel they are making a difference to our children, who are our future. I have worked in the school system for many years and the expectations of staff have become much higher with a much greater workload and a much greater responsibility with nothing in return.”

The Commissioner has requested a response from unions to the offer by Monday 6 September. The AEU NT will not be endorsing the offer and will convey that to the Commissioner at a meeting on Monday.

Once the unions have responded, the Commissioner may put the offer to an employee ballot and those employees covered by the EA will be asked to vote on whether to accept it. There is no downside to voting no – negotiations can continue and a big no vote will empower unions to fight for a better deal.

Enterprise bargaining update – teachers
Bargaining continues at a good pace for members covered by the teachers’ EA. Most AEU claims have now been discussed and, where appropriate, costed. Both sides are confident of completing the substantive negotiations by the expiry of the agreement on Monday 11 October. This does not necessarily mean agreement will be reached on all issues, however we expect that by that time we will be able to say with some confidence which of our claims are likely to be accepted, and which will not be agreed to by the employer.

As the negotiations occur on a without prejudice, we are not able to provide a detailed breakdown on each aspect of the negotiations.

However, we can say from the AEU’s side, we have been encouraged by productive discussions in areas such as study leave provisions, assistant teacher progression and a more comprehensive framework for managing ongoing teacher appointments.

The employer has also tabled proposals on matters such as changes to electricity subsidies, stand down arrangements and receipt of the HALT allowance. These are being considered by the bargaining team and a full update will be provided to the next meeting of our Executive on Friday 17 September.

Where possible, the FTOs will provide updates to members through Regional Council meetings.

Rally against the pay freeze – Tuesday 21 September
We need to send a message to government that we will not settle for any offer that locks in a wage freeze until 2025.

That’s why the union movement has recommitted to rallying outside the next parliamentary sittings, with a rally in Bennett Park (directly outside the Legislative Assembly) on Tuesday 21 September. AEU members in the Greater Darwin area are asked to come together with members from all public sector unions to oppose the four-year freeze.

Events will occur throughout the day, but for AEU members we are asking that you be there at 4.30pm for the rally. Wear RED on the day. This is not industrial action: all members are entitled to take part in protest action outside work hours.

Spread the word among colleagues and see how many members you can get along. It’s also a terrific opportunity to sign up new members.

We are currently looking at opportunities to hold similar events in other regions of the NT. Stay tuned.

Teacher transfer time
As the end of Term 3 approaches, many teaching staff are considering work options for next year. We have already had some reports of teachers being unreasonably denied certainty about employment for next year, such as transferring to another school.

All teacher members should be aware of your right to request a “school to school” transfer, thanks to our union’s insistence during the last round of enterprise bargaining on reintroducing this process. Your right to request a transfer is guaranteed by the enterprise agreement and governed by policy that all schools must comply with. The transfer framework also covers compassionate and guaranteed transfers, and procedures for managing the placement of “unattached” staff.

For all members seeking employment at another school next year, whether permanently or temporarily, if you have not done so already, we advise you to formalise your request in writing to your principal ASAP. According to the transfer procedures, “Classroom Teachers and Principals must conclude their email correspondence for a School to School Transfers before the end of Term 3 for the following school year. This timeframe is to ensure consistency remains in schools with a continued focus on quality educational outcomes for students.”

If you have any questions about the transfer process, contact the office ASAP.

Branch Executive elections update – nominations opening
Elections for two positions to our Branch Executive were recently completed. Melody O’Meara was elected as Women’s Officer, and Cassandra Brown was elected to the position of Executive Councillor representing Indigenous teachers and education workers. Congratulations to both.

Tomorrow, Friday 2 September, the nomination period will commence for all regional Executive Councillor positions for the upcoming two-year term (commencing January 2022). This election is delayed due to COVID-19 and as such the nomination period is compressed, closing at 11.30am on Friday 19 September.

Each region is allocated Executive positions with one representative for every 200 members or part thereof. The current allocation is:

  • Alice Springs – 2
  • Arnhem – 2
  • Barkly – 1
  • Darwin – 4
  • Katherine – 2
  • Palmerston & Rural – 3

A separate notice will be emailed to members tomorrow with instructions on how to nominate. If you are an active member and interested in playing a leadership role on Executive, we encourage you to consider nominating.

Federal Women’s Conference – register now
This year’s AEU Federal Women’s Conference will be held on Saturday 9 October. The conference will be held online via Zoom from 11am to 3pm.

The Conference is focused on increasing the participation of women in our campaigns. There are no caps on numbers so we encourage women members to consider attending. This is a fabulous opportunity to meaningfully engage with a diversity of women AEU members from across the country. Aboriginal women are particularly encouraged to participate. The cut-off for registrations is Friday September 17 so please discuss amongst your sub-branch members and email Women’s Officer Melody O’Meara at [email protected] to reserve your place.

Arthur Hamilton Award for excellence in Aboriginal education
Nominations are now open for the 2021 Arthur Hamilton Award for Outstanding Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education. This national AEU award commemorates the work of Arthur Hamilton who was active in promoting social justice, fostering the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators and campaigning for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to access a high-quality public education.

The Award recognises AEU members who are committed to ensuring that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have the right to high quality public education throughout their lives.

We encourage AEU NT members to nominate for this award. The Arthur Hamilton Award is a terrific opportunity to showcase the tremendous work being done in the NT to provide opportunities for Indigenous students.

An individual or group can be nominated. In recent years we have had two winners from the NT.

The closing date for nominations is Friday 17 December 2021. For more information and to download a nomination form visit our federal website or contact the branch office.

State of our schools survey
Yesterday we emailed all school-based members a link to the federal AEU’s annual State of our Schools survey. This survey provides invaluable information for our efforts in campaigning at the national level for more equitable funding for public schools.

Some elements of the survey are less relevant for our context as this year’s survey has a particular focus on the impact of the pandemic in states such as Victoria and NSW on teachers’ work. However, your participation is encouraged as it helps build the case for addressing resourcing shortages, workload challenges and other key issues in Territory education.

If you haven’t done the survey, please check your inbox for the link and take the time to complete it. If you haven’t received the email with the link, get in touch with the office and we’ll resend it.

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