The AEU’s ongoing campaigns for greater fairness and better funding across our public education sectors was the focus of the most recent AEU Federal Executive meeting. We also heard reports on industrial bargaining and outcomes around the country. With Labor governments in power federally and in every state/territory other than Tasmania, there are many negotiations and discussions underway – and greater hope of achieving our goals.
We celebrated our success in securing time in lieu for schools members attending camps. The Federal Executive considered this a significant win, given how rare it is for school staff in Australia to be recognised and paid for out-of-hours work.
AEU Victoria also reported on the positive work underway to achieve a majority support petition for a Single Interest Employer Agreement in standalone TAFE. If signed by a majority of employees covered, this would be a major boost to our chances of achieving improved salaries and conditions for TAFE members.
With new federal industrial relations laws opening doors for improved bargaining processes, the AEU, IEU and UWU has lodged a joint application with the Fair Work Commission to begin national bargaining to lift the position of some of our lowest paid early childhood members, currently employed under awards with minimum salaries and substandard conditions (more on this story here).
In NSW, the union has struck a deal with their new state government to translate 5000 contract staff to permanent positions. More secure employment remains a strong focus for all AEU branches – and it is great to see NSW achieve a win akin to ours here in Victoria through a new translation clause secured in the 2017 schools agreement, which has seen more than 20,000 teachers and ES translated to ongoing positions since the clause came into effect.
All members are encouraged to join our campaigns, which aim to support you in your work and to ensure public education is properly resourced.
The schools funding campaign also remains a crucial goal for the AEU nationally, with the current funding agreement due to be renegotiated towards the end of this year. The National School Reform Agreement (NSRA) not only outlines the funding to be contributed by state and federal governments, but also the educational outcomes they want to achieve.
The federal government has commenced a review of the NSRA with an expert panel to advise on “key targets and specific reforms” to be tied to school funding, and a reference group on which the AEU is represented. The AEU’s Every School, Every Child campaign is focused on holding the federal and state governments accountable for their pledged commitment to ensuring public schools are funded to at least 100% of the federally determined funding standard, known as the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).
In early childhood, Victoria leads the way, with two years of fee-free preschool for every three- and four-year-old. We are continuing to push for universal access to two years of funded preschool across the country through our Preschool Funding Now! campaign, as well as promoting the need for further investment in attracting and retaining a workforce that has been undervalued for way too long.
In the lead up to the federal election, our Rebuild with TAFE campaign saw Labor commit to providing at least 70% of vocational education funding to TAFE, unravelling the long-term market-based approach that was forcing TAFE to compete with private providers for the same bucket of money. Contestable funding models adopted by governments have done untold damage to the public TAFE system. To see the move away from this federally and in Victoria, alongside the rollout of fee-free TAFE across the country, is a great win for the AEU’s campaigning and advocacy. But there is more to be done to repair the damage and rebuild our public TAFE system, particularly through infrastructure upgrades, and investment in its highly skilled workforce.
Over the next few months, we will be calling on AEU members to meet with Victorian Labor MPs to make sure our political representatives understand the challenges that our schools, TAFEs and early childhood centres are currently facing – both in terms of workforce issues and the needs of our children and students. All AEU members are encouraged to join our sector campaigns, which aim to support you in the work you do and to ensure public education is properly resourced.
There is always so much more to achieve for public education across all of our sectors – however, from time to time, it is good to be reminded that campaigning hard for positive reforms can be very rewarding. Hearing from everyone in the room at our AEU Federal Executive meeting, it was satisfying to realise how much we have achieved, along with the ongoing opportunities for further success.