Schools AEU Victoria announces in-principle Schools Agreement

For the first time in more than 30 years, AEU schools members have achieved a reduction in face-to-face teaching hours as part of a new in-principle enterprise agreement negotiated by AEU Victoria with the Department of Education and Training.

The union has won a commitment from the state government to add two thousand extra teachers to Victoria’s public school system to support the reduction in face-to-face teaching hours. The one-and-a-half hour a week decrease, to be phased in during 2023 and 2024, will give teachers more time for preparation and planning for student learning within their paid hours.

“This is a significant agreement that teachers, principals, education support staff and parents and carers can all support,” says AEU Victorian Branch president Meredith Peace.

“Our new agreement, endorsed by the AEU Joint Primary and Secondary Sector Council, makes important and significant inroads to address the excessive workloads faced by teachers.”

The agreement also delivers a significant salary boost for the lowest paid education support staff.

“It will see our lowest-paid education support staff better valued and respected for the important work that they do at their schools, by achieving a significant pay increase for them,” says Peace.

It also includes $12 million a year to reduce the administrative burden on principals.

“This is a milestone win for staff in public schools and the students they work with.”

MILESTONE WIN FOR MEMBERS

“This is an historic agreement that will ultimately see our students receive greater support to achieve to their full potential,” says Peace.

“When we launched our campaign in April 2021, teachers wanted excessive workloads addressed, additional teachers employed, and salaries that reflect the value of the work of all school staff, particularly education support staff.

“Teachers, principals, and education support staff have achieved an agreement that brings us well towards that goal.”

The agreement significantly improves the working conditions for public school principals, teachers and education support staff, Peace says.

“This is a milestone win for staff in public schools and the students they work with, and I look forward to sharing the details with our members across the state as they consider the in-principle agreement.”

Time in lieu for after-hours activities

The draft Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA 2021) also features significantly expanded time-in-lieu arrangements for required out-of-hours work in structured school activities.

For the first time, Victorian teachers will be able to access hour-for-hour time in lieu for time spent working outside paid hours to undertake activities such as school camps, excursions, concerts, information nights and after-hours sport.

Similarly, for education support (ES) staff, there will be much clearer requirements that any work required of ES outside of normal hours must be recorded and attract time-in-lieu, including for school camps.

Improved entitlements for ES Staff

The deal has extensively revised the Dimensions of Work for ES employees to more accurately describe work required at different ranges and to recognise qualifications in determining classification levels and commencement salaries, as well as more clearly defining supervision requirements.

Paid Maternity Leave would increase to 16 weeks, Partner Leave from one week to four weeks, and other paid Parental Leave to increase from eight weeks to 16 weeks.

Structural adjustments

In addition to the 2% annual pay rise over the next four years, in line with the government’s public sector wages policy, there will also be additional salary increases through structural adjustments. Teachers and education support staff will also receive a new allowance of up to 1% a year, depending on their role. The proposed agreement will lift pay classifications for entry-level teaching graduates and introduce new pay structures for principal class members.

Other provisions to address workload

New provisions will give teachers dedicated time within working hours to undertake essential work in relation to their classes and provide improved professional autonomy. A pupil-free day dedicated to assessment and reporting, and the re-introduction of professional practice days, will also assist teachers to better manage their workload.

Principals will benefit from more consultation about their workload when there are significant school operational changes, and a funded commitment to reduce their administrative burdens.

Better parental leave

The new agreement works to close the gender pay gap with superannuation paid to employees on Parental Leave for 12 months, with paid Maternity Leave to increase to 16 weeks.

Partner Leave increases from one week to four weeks, with other paid Parental Leave increasing from eight weeks to 16 weeks. Superannuation will be payable on first 12 months of parental absence.

Pre-natal Leave provisions will be increased from 35 to 38 hours and extended to teachers as well as ES. Spouse Pre-natal Leave will increase from 7.6 hours to 15.2 hours.

For those parents who have returned to work, the union has secured paid lactation breaks.

Further improvements

There are many other improvements including enhanced consultation provisions for staff and principals, improved leave entitlements and new clauses about work-related violence, cultural responsibility and cultural safety.

Among these improvements is paid Cultural and Ceremonial Leave of three days for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, and modernised Infectious Diseases Leave to account for situations such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want more teachers in our schools who can respond to the needs of our kids, but who also importantly have time to do the work they are asked to,” says Peace.

“We can’t continue to accept the excessive and unreasonable workloads that are simply unsustainable because it’s having an impact on the education of kids and on the health and wellbeing of staff in our schools.”

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