As part of the VGSA campaign, casual relief teachers (CRTs) have sent powerful statements to Education Minister James Merlino, highlighting their essential role within our education system.
Every day, CRTs step into classrooms across all year levels to replace absent teachers and provide continuity of learning for students. Schools rely on the flexibility, skills and knowledge that CRTs bring to their role, but many of these teachers suffer from insecure work and underpayment by labour hire agencies. During the pandemic, CRTs suffered from an even greater lack of job security, underemployment and loss of income without support.
In Victoria, a CRT may be engaged through an agency or directly by a school council. When booked directly, the school is required to pay the Ministerial Order rates, as negotiated by the AEU, which have seen significant salary increases throughout the life of the current enterprise agreement. However, agencies are only required to pay the minimum Award rates. Although these rates increase each year, as determined by the Fair Work Commission, they remain much lower than the salary secured by the AEU ($376.56 versus a minimum $263.30). This means that those employed by agencies can earn up to $111 less per day for performing the same work. Worse, Victoria’s CRTs are already paid significantly less than their counterparts in NSW – $383 compared to $451, respectively.
While CRTs are not directly covered by the Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA), the AEU and the Department of Education are currently negotiating the pay and conditions covered by the Ministerial Order 1039. CRT wages are linked to general teacher salary levels, and the union is calling on the state government to address the pay gap for CRTs employed by school councils versus agencies.
CRTs are also affected by broader agreement outcomes. Even the number of CRT days a school may need is influenced by the working conditions of staff. Back in 2012, a report by the Auditor General found that CRTs deliver at least 10% of a student’s learning. This figure would have increased significantly with the introduction of Professional Practice Days and additional professional development in schools.
In the current agreement, the AEU secured a commitment from DET to review policies related to the timing and duration of lunch breaks; the scheduled duties of CRTs engaged continuously for more than one week; access to professional development and the Employee Assistance Program; and the provision of relevant equipment and resources for CRTs to undertake their duties.