Schools ES dimensions of work and the next schools agreement

  • This article was published more than 4 years ago.
  • 24 Mar 2020

As negotiations for the new Schools Agreement approach, AEU organisers are meeting with ES staff to discuss what should be included in the log of claims. One of the most crucial elements of these discussions is working out how to best define the work that ES staff do in our schools, as the current ES dimensions of work are often ambiguous.

A number of ES members have joined the AEU’s ES dimensions of work reference groups, which aim to ensure the definitions of ES work in the next agreement more accurately reflect the duties performed.

Classroom aide Mary-Jane Remy is one of the reference group leaders. As a long-time and active AEU member, she says her primary role as a leader is to gather as much information as she can from other ES staff about their working conditions and what they would like to see changed in the next agreement.

“I try to get other people involved in understanding what our dimensions of work actually are,” Mary-Jane says. “Most of us probably agree that what needs to be changed is the wording – wording that allows misinterpretation, to our disadvantage.”

Mary-Jane says that, after talking to her, many ES staff have discovered that they haven’t been paid properly for the duties they perform.

“You’ll have people who are ES range 1, but for what they do, they should be classified as a 2.”

Many ES staff have discovered that they haven’t been paid properly for the duties they perform.

This is particularly an issue when it comes to job advertisements, which often request duties and skills that should be classified at a higher band.

Library technician Robyn Donoghue is another group leader. She became involved when she made ES dimensions of work her project for the AEU’s Women in leadership development (WILD) program. She says that one of the reference group’s suggestions is to monitor how ES jobs are advertised. More broadly, there is a challenge defining ES work and ranges, because of the increasingly diverse variety of jobs now classed as ES.

“There are jobs that ES are doing that are not mentioned in any dimensions of work agreement,” Robyn says. “Where do  they fit?”

“A world without ES staff would be chaos. We want people to understand what we do.”

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many ES members simply aren’t aware of the relevant dimensions of work. Mary-Jane says the first step has been getting ES staff along to meetings to share information and hear their concerns.

“We’re at a stage where we’re just getting people talking, as opposed to feeling they have to do something. I think, if worse comes to worst and all that happens at those meetings is these ES staff have a safe place to come and air their grievances and there’s something I can do to help and pass on to the dimensions of work working party, that’s better than nothing.”

Another positive will be if the focus on ES work dimensions helps the broader school community understand exactly how important the work of ES staff is to the proper functioning of a school.

Diana Blyton believes it helps when ES staff organise within a school.

“It’s not just about the money, it’s about being respected for the job that you do – being acknowledged for holding the school together,” Mary Jane says. “A world without ES staff would be chaos. We want people to understand what it means to be an ES. Teachers often just don’t know. If they happen to have an ES in the room, they start to understand how valuable they are.”

Library worker Diana Blyton, another of the leaders, says that it helps when ES staff organise within a school.

“One school I was at, the ES had a 45 minute PD meeting every week,” Diana says. “That was seen as a priority by principal class and other staff members, so they seemed to have a greater appreciation of the work ES staff do. They even arranged to have a skeleton staff so ES could attend those meetings.”

Robyn says she hopes the meetings organised by the reference group will be the first step in ES staff stepping out of the sidelines and taking a more visible role in the life of the school.

“I think it’s already activated a lot of ES who are now taking responsibility for their own agreement. Even without the new agreement, it has given ES a collective voice so that people within the workspace feel able to say, no, that’s not my role,” Robyn says.

“I encourage any ES out there to have a say. This is our chance. The more active ES staff are, the more likely their sub-branch will listen to their issues and make sure their log of claims isn’t just teacher issues.”

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