Member Bulletin Number 6 2017

In this bulletin:

  • Dispute regarding urban teachers’ 2018 start date

Dispute regarding urban teachers’ 2018 start date

Attached is the outcome of the conciliation hearing at the Fair Work Commission held on Monday 5 December between the AEU NT and the Commissioner for Public Employment. Department of Education officers were also in attendance.

The matter concerned the effective loss of a day’s leave for urban, school-based teachers over the upcoming 2017/18 Christmas break due to the gazetted school calendar requiring urban-based teachers return to work on Thursday 25 January, 2018.

The attached statement from Fair Work Commissioner Bissett ends the dispute within the parameters of the dispute settling procedures outlined in clause 13 of the current Teacher and Educator Enterprise Agreement. However, as the Fair Work Commissioner made clear in her statement, this is still an issue which needs to be resolved. The union now intends to pursue the matter of the current school calendar and how it affects urban-based teachers within the current negotiations for a new Enterprise Agreement.

Background to the dispute
Following informal approaches to the Minister for Education in order to resolve the matter, we wrote to the Minister on 18 July requesting that remote and urban school commencement dates for 2018 be aligned so that urban teachers would not be disadvantaged by losing a day’s leave. The Minister replied on 29 September stating that she did not have the authority to modify the calendar and referred the union back to the Department of Education.

We duly wrote to Vicki Baylis, DoE Chief Executive, seeking her urgent intervention into the matter. The CE replied on 10 October stating that she did not believe urban teachers were being treated inequitably.

We then referred the matter to the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment. Union officials met with OCPE delegates on October 20. The OCPE contended that urban teachers would not, in actual fact, lose a recreation leave day because the missing day would be allocated during the 2018 term 1 break.

The AEU’s position is that urban teachers will only have 41 days, instead of the normal 42 days (six weeks), of continuous leave as a result of being required to return to work on 25 January. We tabled various ways in which the matter could have been resolved, such as allowing teachers to work until 15 December this year and return to work on Monday 29 January, next year. The employer was unwilling to accommodate any such variations to the school calendar. As a consequence, the union referred the matter to the FWC. The Commissioner sympathised with our position but concluded that it was beyond her legal remit to make a decision to alter school calendar dates (this power rests with the Minister under the Education Act).

Where to from here?
Unfortunately, urban teachers will lose a leave day over the Christmas break. However, the positive outcome from the Fair Work Commissioner’s statement is that it acknowledges that this is an ongoing problem which needs to be fixed in a timely manner. One way to do this is to codify teachers’ leave arrangements in an enterprise agreement in such a way that they can access six weeks of unbroken leave in the future. Our position is that it is essential that teachers have the ability to access a full six weeks (42 days) of unbroken leave to fully rest and recuperate after four terms of intensive and dedicated teaching.

Please contact our office if you have further queries about this matter.

Decision of Commissioner Bissett in relation to the dispute