COVID-19 update - Member Bulletin Number 4 2020
Special bulletin – update #4 on COVID-19
In this bulletin:
- National Cabinet resolution on COVID-19 and schools
- Still in the dark on remote community restrictions
- Updates for members – Regional Zoom meetings Thursday and Friday
- Ask a colleague to join the AEU
AEU NT members: thank you for your professional approach in supporting your students, their families, your colleagues and the broader community in what can only be described as extraordinary times. We have appreciated your patience, as we have distributed up-to-date and accurate advice.
We continue to make daily and often hourly representations to the Government and the Department on your behalf. There are a still many outstanding issues which we are determined to resolve – please keep an eye on your inbox as we will generally be updating members via email in the first instance. We are also holding another round of virtual meetings this week which all members are welcome to attend (details below).
National Cabinet resolution on COVID-19 and schools
On Friday the National Cabinet (made up of the leaders of all nine Australian governments) endorsed the resolution (reprinted below) that gives some clarity to AEU members about ongoing arrangements in schools. This was the product of a week of intense lobbying by the AEU leadership at all levels of government, including meetings with the Prime Minister and Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan.
The resolution contains important commitments that benefit members immediately, such as working from home provisions for vulnerable staff, as well as undertakings to continue to work with the AEU on many unresolved matters, such as work health and safety.
Statement on Schools by the National Cabinet, 27 March 2020
It is no longer business as usual for our schools, as we adapt to the impact of COVID-19.
We are now in a transition phase until the end of term as schools prepare for a new mode of operation following the school holidays.
For principals, teachers and support staff, the next few months will bring incredible challenges for our education system. We understand they need time to engage in the professional preparation and planning that is required to ensure that every child has access to education during this difficult time in a sustainable and effective manner for the rest of the 2020 school year.
Some states and territories have moved to pupil-free days already and each state and territory will come to their own transition arrangements with their workforce for the rest of this term.
While the medical advice remains that it is safe for children to go to school, to assist with the transition underway in our schools to the new mode of operation we ask that only children of workers for whom no suitable care arrangements are available at home to support their learning, physically attend school. This is vital to ensure that no parent should be forced to choose between their employment and the children’s education.
We understand the need for clear, nationally consistent health and safety advice so we have asked the AHPPC to develop guidelines about how staff in schools can protect themselves, manage social distance requirements and cater for those students who are at school. This will include guidelines for staff who work with vulnerable children, particularly those who have additional needs.
For education staff who identify as high risk, vulnerable or are caring for vulnerable family members, you will be supported to work from home.
We will continue to meet with education stakeholders and unions so that we can understand the education challenges for our communities and work constructively towards solutions. That will include the National Cabinet’s consideration of the measures needed for early childhood settings and TAFE.
Still in the dark on community restrictions
Several days after extreme restrictions on movement in and out of remote communities were introduced, we are yet to see a single piece of official correspondence or any news reporting on how this impacts on people living in remote communities (including AEU members, other workers and local residents).
For those who are not aware of the new laws, unless an exemption is in place, if you leave a remote community now, say to go to a town for supplies, you have to self-isolate for 14 days on your return. It is an additional restriction of movement that has been introduced to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading into remote communities, but it also raises a lot of concerns due to the very limited services available in these locations.
Members in numerous remote communities have expressed to AEU officers your concerns about food supply, access to medicines and other essentials. We are aware that people’s anxiety levels are understandably high and are continuing to seek advice from the Government and key agencies on guidelines.
Updates for members – Regional videoconferencing meetings again this week
The videoconferencing meetings held last week allowed the Full-Time Officers to communicate directly with members and answer questions. The meetings will be held again this week on the same day and time.
Thursday 2 April
- Barkly Region – 7.30-8am
- Darwin Region – 3.30-4pm
- Alice Springs Region – 3.30-4pm
Friday 3 April
- Katherine Region – 7.30-8am
- Palmerston Region – 3.30-4pm
- Arnhem Region – 4-4.30pm
Tomorrow or Wednesday, the office will provide details on how to join each meeting directly to the sub-branch rep in each workplace.
You should speak with your sub-branch rep for instructions if you wish to join. If you don’t have a sub-branch rep, ensure you elect one ASAP and notify the office by emailing [email protected]. Even very small schools with one or two members should nominate a sub-branch rep to ensure you receive invitations to these virtual meetings and other important updates from the union office.
Each sub-branch is asked to ensure at least 1-2 members join the meeting and then provide a report back to their colleagues.
Ask a colleague to join the AEU
As we hear the tragic reports of hundreds of thousands of workers being stood down or sacked across the country, this is surely a reminder of the importance of a strong union that is able protect its members’ pay and conditions. As a strong union, the AEU NT has won or sought guarantees on the following:
- Salaries – in the event of school closures, the salaries of NTG-employed teachers, principals and support staff will continue to be paid indefinitely. This is an entitlement protected in our latest enterprise agreement.
- Working conditions – all existing conditions are protected, with additional provisions won including access to additional personal leave when existing credits are exhausted and working from home arrangements for vulnerable staff.
- Job security – we are seeking a guarantee from the Department that the contracts of all teaching and support staff due to expire at the end of Term 1 are renewed. We continue to seek assurances that School Council staff will continue to be paid in the event of school closures. With the Permanency Project extended, the union will shortly commence a campaign for conversion of fixed period teaching staff to ongoing so long as they meet the criteria, with a focus on remote staff.
The AEU NT is only able to win these conditions due to our strong membership numbers and activity in workplaces across the Territory. Encourage all eligible non-members in your workplace to sign up with the AEU NT – this includes not only teachers, but principals, trade trainers, counsellors, classroom support staff and school council employees involved in education provision. This will make our union even stronger.
New members can sign up online by visiting https://aeunt.org.au/membership/.
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