For everyone From your branch secretary: Bold ambitions

Erin Aulich, Secretary, AEU Victorian branch

We have hit the ground running in 2024, with some ambitious goals in all of our sectors, starting with a focus on recruitment in Term 1. With so many new entrants to our profession, we will be visiting workplaces throughout February to participate in the induction process so that all new teachers and staff across the state know about the benefits of joining their union. 

Often, those who haven’t had a lot of engagement with the AEU don’t realise that their wages and conditions have been achieved through committed campaigning by you – their union member colleagues. Term 1 induction is the perfect time to raise awareness about the AEU and your union sub-branch, as well as the importance of understanding your workplace agreement.

Your agreement is the all-important contract that sets out the conditions of your employment. Winning improvements to members’ workplace agreements – and supporting you to secure those rights – is central to the AEU’s mission. These conditions affect your work on a daily basis – and yet, it is easy to forget that new staff may not even know what their agreement’s called.

We are focused on building our strength to represent the needs and interests of Victoria’s dedicated public education workforce.

In schools, the VGSA 2022 has got you covered. Clause 11(5) – Industrial Relations Principles enshrines your right to “participate in the Employer’s induction process at the school such that those employees can be made aware of the role of the union and their right to join the union, and the terms and conditions contained in the VGSA.” This gives new staff the opportunity to understand that accessing all those hard-won rights and entitlements – from time in lieu to the maximum number of extras – relies on the efforts of their AEU sub-branch working effectively with leadership teams to correctly implement the agreement.

In the TAFE sector, we have achieved the gold standard, with sub-branch representatives entitled to a time allowance under the TAFE Teachers Agreement to canvass the views of members and undertake the important duties of a workplace rep.

This time allowance is something we will be advocating for in the early childhood sector as part of agreement negotiations, set to commence this year. At the council meeting in December, the Early Childhood Sector Council unanimously endorsed the log of claims developed by members, which lists the entitlements members want to see in their next round of state-wide agreements.

We will also be pushing for agreements in disability that properly respect the professionalism of our members in that sector.

Having an elected sub-branch representative in every workplace is a key part of the AEU’s democratic structure. Reps play a key role in the workplace, supporting members, consulting them on any changes, disseminating information about key entitlements and union campaigns, and recruiting new staff to the workplace.

For all those reasons, it is essential to have AEU reps in every workplace, and for those reps to have access to high-quality union training. In 2024, we want reps from every school to undertake training on entitlements in the VGSA 2022.

Late last year, we surveyed reps about their training needs, and we will be acting on their suggestions. We know that staff shortages have been hampering the capacity for reps to access time release for training, and so we need to find ways to make it easier for them to attend. In the meantime, it’s worth remembering that the AEU covers the cost of CRTs to enable reps to attend union training.

We will also be focusing on revamping our professional and industrial training overall, to make sure it is meaningful and accessible for all AEU members across the state.

Another focus for 2024 will be recruiting pre-service and early career teachers – the future of our profession. Post-COVID, we have seen a lot of people leave the profession, retire early, or change careers. The AEU must replace those members so that we can continue to do the essential work of representing the needs and interests of Victoria’s dedicated public education workforce.

As such, the union will have a renewed presence in universities and will continue to campaign on issues such as paid placements, access to mentors and high-quality professional development, and the extra time and support needed when starting out in your career.

These activities sit alongside our ongoing negotiations and campaigns to see government better support public education and our members, who continue to show up every day and do their best for their students, even in the most trying times.

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