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Things every teacher in Australia should know

 
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kinshachi



Joined: 06 Sep 2006
Posts: 50
Location: Sydney

PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:19 am    Post subject: Things every teacher in Australia should know Reply with quote

This is something of a public-service message, rather than a topic per se, but I think it's important that teachers working in Australia, or thinking of working in Australia, should know their rights and their position regarding the new workplace laws enacted this year.

A lot of schools are doing it tough this year with the downturn, and a lot of teachers are desperate for work, which naturally leads to a climate where the erosion of wages and conditions can easily occur. The more we accept this as teachers, the more employers will expect to get away with in the future, which lowers the bar for everyone. In addition, there are changes in the Modern Award (MA000075, available on the Fair Work Australia website), about which many teachers and employers may be unaware.

One of these that is particularly relevant for NSW, is the fact that we have taken a pay cut from the old State Award, but that this difference will be incrementally applied over the next five years. This means your employer should be paying a transitional amount, not simply the rate on the Modern Award. You can check what rate you should be getting on the Fair Work Australia website's pay calculator, as well.

Another important point in the Modern Award is the recognition of experience. Traditionally, many employers have only accepted experience teaching ESL in Australia. However, the new Modern Award adds the following in Schedule C.2.2(b): "other full-time teaching, including in other languages, credited at the rate of one year of experience for each two years of such teaching, to a maximum of three years". This, in my reading, means any kind of teaching anywhere to anyone, and people I spoke to at Fair Work Australia have confirmed my interpretation, although I couldn't get it in writing. It may require a ruling to make it enforceable, but it is the letter of the law as it stands.

One more common situation I have seen, starting long before the downturn, is the increasing employment of teachers as "independent contractors". This seems to allow employers to circumvent the Award, pay whatever rate they wish, and to shift the responsibility for superannuation, worker's compensation and third-party liability to the teacher. Called "sham contracting", it is also illegal, and subject to a fine of up to $33000 per instance, something you might wish to inform an employer of if they want to employ you on this basis. This even applies to labour-hire companies; the company itself may be a contractor, but the teachers who work for it are employees, and the burden of proof of contractor status has now been shifted to the employer, rather than the employee as it was in the past. If you think you can't afford to make a fuss, ask yourself if you think you can afford either yourself or a student getting seriously injured on your watch.

If you have been underpaid, you can claim up to 6 years of back pay from your current or former employers, and you have legal protection from retribution. Contact your Union or Fair Work Australia for more information.

Many schools do the right thing, but many others don't, and many of them see creative ways of cutting teachers' wages as a way to give themselves a competitive edge. The thing is, if it works, and especially if it allowed to work, it will become the new norm, and more and more teachers will suffer. It's hard enough to get by on a teacher's wages these days, let's not let it get any worse.

BTW, I am not being paid by any union, but I am a member because, after all, who else will work to improve your wages and conditions?
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Def



Joined: 09 Sep 2007
Posts: 58
Location: London

PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hrm. Interesting.

If possible (know this was a while back) can you specify if you're talking about state schools, private schools, language schools, etc?

Because wages for teachers in state schools in WA went up last year, in October I believe. (My memory is a bit of a blur for last year, but I was working in a state school, and know I got an increase, heh. Might be off by a month.)
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Insubordination



Joined: 07 Nov 2007
Posts: 392
Location: Sydney

PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had an interview with a private ELICOS college, who informed me that they have to cap teachers' salaries at Step 7. I was on a step 10. I didn't take the job, but wondered at the legality of it.
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kinshachi



Joined: 06 Sep 2006
Posts: 50
Location: Sydney

PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Def: I am talking primarily about ELICOS, or language schools, although the Award also applies to private Business and VET colleges, and the like. State schools are on a different Award.

@Insubordination: Perhaps they "have to" based on their bottom line, but the Award says otherwise, and they cannot legally do this. It would seem the point is moot for you, but the good news is that even if you sign a contract for a job under those conditions, you can make a claim later for up to 6 years of back pay. Last year, the IEU pursued dozens of cases, and won over $100,000 in back pay claims for ELICOS teachers. I've been through it myself, and know many others who have, too, and been successful, because many colleges count on teachers not being aware of or pursuing their entitlements. When it gets to court, colleges often don't have a legal leg to stand on. At present, Union membership among ELICOS teachers is relatively small, but it is growing, and if enough of us pursue our legal entitlements, the dodgy colleges will realise that it's cheaper for them to do the right thing...
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kinshachi



Joined: 06 Sep 2006
Posts: 50
Location: Sydney

PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a quick update to my previous post. As part of the new system, an annual wage review has been conducted, and an increase of 3.4% has been applied from July 1, 2011 across the board to all Awards. You can access the Modern Award (for ELICOS and VET teachers) online at https://extranet.deewr.gov.au/ccmsv8/CiLiteKnowledgeDetailsFrameset.htm?KNOWLEDGE_REF=216367&TYPE=X&ID=1772306889604618888889912894&DOCUMENT_REF=338752&DOCUMENT_TITLE=Educational%20Services%20%28Post-secondary%20Education%29%20Award%202010&DOCUMENT_CODE=MA000075. On the right sidebar, click on "Summaries", and you can access guides which set out the transitional rates for each state (NSW is AN120547, for example). Remember, if you are being underpaid, you can claim up to 6 years of backpay.

One other common problem is schools not paying their required Superannuation payments. Since last year, all employers must pay super at least quarterly if not more often, and by the end of the month after the quarter (ie. Jan. 28, Apr. 28, July 28 and Oct. 28 ). Check your super, and if it hasn't been paid, follow up with your employer, your Union, or the ATO.
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kinshachi



Joined: 06 Sep 2006
Posts: 50
Location: Sydney

PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, it's been another year, and FWA has given us another pay rise. This year it's 2.9%. Check the new rates on the FWO website: https://extranet.deewr.gov.au/ccmsv8/CiLiteKnowledgeDetailsFrameset.htm?KNOWLEDGE_REF=216367&TYPE=X&ID=5838021389064114188889912894&DOCUMENT_REF=363788&DOCUMENT_TITLE=Educational%20Services%20%28Post-secondary%20Education%29%20Award%202010&DOCUMENT_CODE=MA000075, and also check the transition rates for your state. From the above website, click on "Summaries" in the right-hand sidebar, and look for your state's transition. NSW is the first one (AN120547), and it's still a couple dollars per hour more than the basic Modern Award. Many schools are trying to use the basic rate and are unaware of or are ignoring the Transition rates. Make them aware - these are the minimum rates for NSW. Even if you've signed a contract, you can still claim back-pay for up to 6 years if you've been underpaid. You can contact the FWO or your Union for advice.
And speaking of Unions, the new system compels employers to bargain in good faith if a majority of employees want something better. Agreements have been (and/or are being) negotiated with many schools around Sydney (and elsewhere) with pay rises significantly above the Award. Remember that the Award is just the minimum set by law. Any less, and the law is on your side; any more is up to you, your colleagues and your Union!
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