The AEU is working on a long-term plan (LTP) that sets out the working conditions of teachers and ES staff in each school. Every year, the LTP presents members and sub-branches with the opportunity to influence their working conditions, and continues the long tradition of members taking active roles in implementing agreements won by our union.
When we think of union action, we often visualise the state-wide stop works – 15,000 red-coated members marching through the streets of Melbourne. A stop work is truly a powerful collective action, but we mustn’t sell short the excellent and important work sub-branches engage in day-to-day to implement agreements we’ve won.
An agreement is only as good as its application in the workplace. Many conditions are written in black and white in the agreement, but only impact the working life of members when applied. Examples include range reviews for ES staff, the limit of two staff meetings adjacent to the school day, the 5% reduction in duties for graduate teachers, the clauses to translate fixed-term staff to ongoing and the limits to face-to-face teaching.
It’s worth bearing these examples in mind as we move to implement the 30+8 clause from the VGSA2017 – a clause designed to address teacher workload. There’s a long list of actions taken by sub-branches to ensure agreements are applied, but perhaps the most important of is consultation. The consultation clause gives sub-branches a mechanism to inform and influence the principal and, when applied properly, results in more effective decision-making that incorporates the perspective of teaching and support staff, and results in truly collegiate and powerful workplaces.
It’s important to remember that simply having a clause in the VGSA2017 does not mean it is automatically actioned! Sub-branches always need to be aware of the clauses contained in a new agreement and then actively seek to implement them. They are not expected to do this on their own, of course. The union stands ready to train and support sub branches through this process.
There is always a transition period as schools incorporate new clauses won in agreements. The 30+8 clause is no exception, requiring each school, through consultation and co-operation between the sub-branch and the principal, to find a bespoke solution to the challenge of excessive workload. Sub-branches will always be the focal point to effect real change in each school.