Posted on 14 December, 2023 in Member Bulletin

Member Bulletin: Term 4, Week 10 2023

Member Bulletin: Term 4, Week 10 2023

AEU NT Member Bulletin Term 4, Week 10/2023

In this bulletin:

-For Every Child:
full funding of public schools urgent and critical
-AEU membership fees
-AEU NT wins for members:
proper permanency, parental leave member win, clarity on stand down pay, personal appointments during NCT and working hours
-Issues:
Netskope roll-out, Government Employee Housing (GEH), extreme heat.
-Updates:
‘Carpetland’ matters, TAFE sector
-Looking ahead:
annual conference 2024, reps in schools and bargaining, Territory Educator, Teachers’ Health message

For Every Child: full funding of public schools urgent and critical

This week, the Federal Government released an expert panel's report, set to shape future school funding. It highlights that the NT's current funding approach is not needs-based and calls for urgent change, stressing the role of federal support.

The Improving Outcomes for All report, focused on reducing inequity in Australian schools, will guide negotiations for the next round of school funding agreements between state/territory governments and the Commonwealth.

Excerpts from the report:


"The review found that effective enrolment does not align with school resourcing needs as it provides insufficient support to schools with high educational needs and low or fluctuating attendance."

"Many of the schools visited by the Panel in the NT predominantly serve First Nations students and remote communities. Significant resources often go into supporting attendance and meeting the staff-intensive needs of students at these schools. Workforce challenges become more acute as remoteness and community complexity increase."

"The Panel considers that supporting the NT to reach 100 per cent of its SRS as soon as possible is key to ensuring that resources are not a constraint."


AEU membership fees

A reminder that, in line with the 2021-2024 Teachers’ Enterprise Agreement, most member fees have been indexed according to current salaries, in line with union policy. The new fee schedule is available for download at https://aeunt.org.au/membership/. As outlined in recent email communications, those members affected will have started to see a change in fees from the 7 December pay cycle onwards. If you have any questions or believe any error has been made, please email [email protected]. Remember, there will be no fee changes for members employed by school councils, anyone in an AO classroom support role and any other members whose employment falls under the 2021-2025 General Agreement, BIITE or CDU EAs. Given the previous Principal Classification Review, Executive Contract Principal fees will remain static for now. If you are on workers’ compensation your fees will not change. If you are on long-term workers’ compensation and there is a chance that we do not know, please tell us.

Member Wins:


Proper Permanency: AT LAST

From 6 December, the default position of NT Department of Education is that recruitment to all positions will be advertised as ongoing in accordance with NTPS Employment Instruction 1.

Changes to the Fair Work Act came into effect 6 December meaning that fixed term contracts can only be offered in six specified circumstances. The following two are the ones that will feature in our system going forward.

-The position relies on fixed funding that has no reasonable prospect of being renewed. For example, if your school can genuinely not afford to make you permanent.

-The position is covering a temporary absence of another employee on leave such as long service leave, workers’ compensation, or parental leave.

So, there will remain some fixed period employees but far fewer than in recent years.

Also, after 6 December this year, anyone who has been employed on two or more consecutive fixed period contracts will, providing their position is still required, be moved to permanent employment after the end date of their current contract. Department officials are working through all expiring contracts and liaising with Principals around vacancies and the issuing of letters confirming permanent employment.

Despite long running debate and pressure from AEU NT to make teachers permanent to the Department (or a Region) if their school (technically) has no vacancies. This has been ruled out and all employees will continue to be made permanent against a position in a school.

We have also asked the Department to check that all Senior Teacher employees on fixed-term contracts have a permanent Classroom Teacher position to fall back into to avoid the possibility of anyone finding themselves with no position.

Members with questions about permanency are encouraged to contact us via our online “send an enquiry” form at https://aeunt.org.au/contact/

Parental leave case win

Recently the union office received confirmation that a member whose application for parental leave was initially knocked back and, on appeal, was knocked back a second time, will now get her full 14 weeks' paid parental leave. Her actual service history entitles her to this amount, as opposed to what the Department of Corporate and Digital Development (DCDD) had recorded as service.

This story has two lessons for every member:

1. Just because the computer says so, it doesn’t mean it's right and nor does the story end there.
2. The importance of checking dates on letters of appointment (fixed period contracts and other movements)

These lessons share a theme: when in doubt ask your sub-branch rep and/or contact the union office via our web form https://aeunt.org.au/contact/

Stand down pay, unmoveable appointments and the myth of 4:21 strikes again!

Given that the office has answered repeated questions on the working hours of teachers recently, it is clear that the myth of 4:21 has reasserted itself along with a few others.

During Week 9 AEU NT officers met with the DCDD HR Directors who carry responsibility for Department of Education (DoE) matters. We were seeking to ensure that DCDD officers fully understand the implications of wording in the Teachers’ Responsibilities Guide and arrangements relating to stand-down pay for teachers. This was following concerns that a proportion of DCDD Workforce Services had been providing inaccurate advice.

AEU NT is satisfied that DCDD Directors understand the longstanding working arrangements of teacher employees and will now be refreshing guidance notes and reminding their teams of the availability of this guidance. As a consequence, we expect that more consistent and accurate advice comes from HR officers to members and managers within the DoE going forward. We ask members to note the following:

-Unavoidable medical and other appointments can be accommodated within school hours by agreement, where they align with non-contact time. They do not need to be entered as personal leave – certificated or otherwise.
-The end of the working day for a school-based teaching employee should be assessed on their actual regular working pattern. For example, if you regularly stay till 3.30pm before going home, that is your regular “working pattern”.
-4:21pm is a standardised finish time used across NTPS IT systems but is not relevant to physical departures from school grounds of school-based teaching employees.

If you believe you are being ordered otherwise, please contact the AEU NT office.

Issues:


Netskope Nightmare: lack of access to educational websites

Netskope has recently been rolled-out as a web content filtering agent at many NT schools. We have received feedback from several sub-branches about the limitations it is posing to the accessibility of a wide range of educational websites on Department laptops. Some of these include Kahoot, ClickView, Chat GPT and some YouTube content. It is reported to be impacting teacher productivity, the ability to prepare quality learning programs and the ability to verify student work during marking periods. Members have told us they are able to bypass these controls by connecting to personal phone hotspots, but we understand the ability to do this will cease when the pilot period ends.

If you have feedback, especially about the loss of ability to use a personal hotspot, we recommend that you provide it in the first instance directly to the Department via [email protected]. If you require action from the AEU NT office, then contact us via our online “send an enquiry” form at https://aeunt.org.au/contact/.

We also encourage you to raise this issue within your sub-branches and then feed it up through the union’s Regional Council structures.

Raising the Roof: Government Employee Housing (GEH)

Provision of rent-free accommodation is a vital component to ensure our remote schools are properly staffed. The NT Government (NTG) uses just over 1,800 properties, away from Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine. Deptartment of Education occupies 770, making our footprint the largest of any agency. For remote school members a range of issues regularly arise, and members and sub-branches regularly seek our advice and assistance. NTG centralised the allocation and maintenance of housing for each agency into a single office within the Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities at the start of 2023.

AEU NT officers Rachael Metcalfe and Mick McCarthy met with Cameron McBroom, Senior Director, GEHO (Government Employee Housing) and other senior DoE staff in November to address several long-standing remote housing matters members have raised. Information gleaned included:

-NTG are building new homes using revised 2013 guidelines. Anecdotally, these will have security features like diamond grille amplimesh over windows instead of louvres with bars: a commonsense inclusion according to members.
-The AEU NT sought legal advice from the Tenants’ Advice Service earlier in the year to address remote members’ concerns about signing their new tenancy contracts under the RTA. GEHO have confirmed they are following RTA (Residential Tenancies Act) timeframes to complete repairs and maintenance on properties.
-Entitlements for tenants across agencies like furniture and power plus where to pay it (if applicable) is available on the intranet.
-An update on the historically difficult GEH situation in Nhulunbuy due to chronic shortages of housing stock. Assurances were given around approved new builds and a number of significant repairs to some properties before returning them to available housing stock. Despite this progress, there is still insufficient stock to house incoming school staff for 2024.

The office continues to seek the following:

a) A breakdown of completions to date as part of the $25.5M allocated for new GEH capital works 2023-2024.
b) KPIs for GEH dwellings inspected in the past 12 months and timelines for those still pending.
c) We note KPIs are provided for the 500 houses upgraded under the Homelands Housing and Infrastructure Program but not for GEH. AEU NT would like to see these in the 2024-2025 d) Agency Budget Statement along with figures detailing security upgrades completed.
e) A breakdown of how the $8.6M slated for remote and regional teacher housing construction and upgrades in the Budget and Regional Overview 2023-2024 is being spent.

Too hot to handle? Heat in school and your rights

Whilst the interiors of most school buildings in the Territory are air conditioned, we have been receiving questions from members around lunchtime, yard duties and outdoor physical activity for students. Given that a significant proportion of the Territory is under a heatwave warning from the Bureau of Meteorology, it is not surprising that members are seeking clarity.

The NT DoE Sun Safety in Schools policy provides advice around prevention of over-exposure to the sun, adequate access to sunscreen, shaded areas and drinking water. There are no specific Enterprise Agreement clauses around the handling of extreme heat and the capacity for school closures.

When air-con fails there is no set temperature beyond which principals are required to send students home or close the school, but they can be closed at the discretion of the Chief Executive under mitigating circumstances if a short-term risk to the safety or welfare of staff or students is presented or for cultural reasons.

Workplace health and safety regulatory body, NT Worksafe, has guidance for employers and managers at https://worksafe.nt.gov.au/forms-and-resources/bulletins/working-in-heat.

As it explains action by managers to prevent heat illness in the workplace is required once:

-air temperature (dry bulb temperature) is above 26 degrees Celsius

and/or

-relative humidity is greater than 60%

If members in your school are experiencing issues with extreme heat, contact us via our online “send an enquiry” form at https://aeunt.org.au/contact/.

Updates


‘Carpetland’ matters

To understand and assist AEU NT members in corporate roles within the Department and because of the important role their teams play in supporting all schools, this year we have been proactive in engaging with key directors.

AEU NT staff Rachael and Mick met with senior DoE officers of SWIPS (Student Wellbeing and Inclusion Programs and Services) in mid-November and are planning regular meetings. Key takeaways from this first meeting were:

-This team of the DoE (in common with many other government departments) is experiencing considerable staff shortages – 30% within their client services team. This means shortages of school counsellors, inclusion advisors, speech therapists and psychologists to name a few. They are prioritising a recruitment campaign to attempt filling these roles from outside the NT.
-SSDB (Safe Supportive De-escalation Behaviours) training facilitated by SWIPS staff (which supersedes all previous de-escalation training) has been completed by 600 staff (Module 1) and 414 staff (both Modules 1 & 2) and continues to be rolled out across schools.
-Staff reminded us that although we as classroom practitioners often feel in many ways responsible for the mental health of our students, in fact the legal responsibility for students’ mental health sits with the Department of Health.
-SWIPS staff are promoting the use of Kids’ Helpline in schools where students can access 1:1 support with qualified clinicians after accessing any in person counselling provision at their school. It was noted that in the ACT this is the sole provision for students to access 1:1 clinical support.

AEU NT members also work in the Department’s Teaching and Learning Services division. We will be seeking more regular dialogue with their director going forward.

TAFE Sector

Our membership in the NT’s tertiary education establishments: Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) and Charles Darwin University (CDU) may be small, but they are nonetheless important and work proceeds in their interests.

Most significantly, Enterprise Agreement (EA) negotiations are underway for BIITE and 2024 will be an EA bargaining year at CDU. AEU NT works cooperatively with our sister unions the NTEU, CPSU and United Workers’ Union at both establishments.

Please note that the AEU NT has a reserved Vice-President position for the TAFE sector. This is currently vacant and any member at BIITE or CDU interested in representing the sector through this role should contact Branch Secretary Rachael Metcalfe at [email protected] with any questions.

Looking Ahead:


Annual Conference 2024!

It may seem like a while away now, but Conference 2024 will be upon us before we know it!

Key, non-negotiable deadlines under AEU NT rules are:

-Friday 22 March (end Week 8, Term 1 – 6 weeks prior to Conference): delegate registration (following their election/endorsement at a sub-branch meeting) and motion submission.
-Friday 5 April (end Week 10, Term 1 - 4 weeks prior to Conference) – draft Conference agenda and motions made available to members.

Message to reps for 2024: importance of reps in schools to Enterprise Bargaining

It is vital there is at least one main AEU NT member contact for every workplace to ensure effective communication between the AEU NT office and your sub-branch. This is particularly so with 2024 being an Enterprise Bargaining year. Your current agreement expires October 2024, and we want members in schools to be informed, activated, and prepared for negotiations and action: that is where you come in!

Your sub-branch’s main contact for the union office is usually your elected sub-branch president. If your sub-branch does not currently have any elected representatives or your rep will be leaving, please notify us of a member who we can contact early next year to help the sub-branch get started. We can help with formally putting a new rep/s in place early next year. We recommend that all sub-branches aim to hold their 2024 AGM at least a week before the deadline for Conference registration (Friday 22 March). Contact Bridget O’Dwyer at [email protected] to advise of any changes to reps/contacts and for information on activating your sub-branch.

The OCPE and Government have signalled their willingness to undertake and complete bargaining for a new Enterprise Agreement in the first half of 2024.

Territory Educator

A new edition of The Territory Educator is being prepared – if you’d like to contribute an article, photos or have an idea please contact Melody O’Meara at [email protected]. If you would like additional copies of the most recent edition let us know and we will arrange for some to be dropped off or posted out to you. We’d love to publish more member contributions.

Message from Teachers’ Health
As we wrap up another busy year, we’re sharing our appreciation for all our wonderful teachers, principals and school staff from everyone at Teachers Health. Once again, you’ve gone above and beyond to support your students and school communities. We’re proud to support you as the health fund for the education community and wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.

Did you know that as a member of the AEU NT, you’re eligible to join the Teachers Health family? You’ll get 6 weeks’ free cover when you join with Hospital and Extras by 31 January and skip the 2 & 6 month waits on Extras*. Head to teachershealth.com.au for more info.

Phone 08 8948 5399; [email protected]; www.aeunt.org.au
Unit 3, 8 Totem Rd, Coconut Grove NT; PO Box 41863, Casuarina NT 0811

Authorised by Rachael Metcalfe, Branch Secretary, 3/8 Totem Rd Coconut Grove NT 0810

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© Authorised by Rachael Metcalfe, Branch Secretary, Australian Education Union Northern Territory Branch, Darwin (2023)

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