As an early childhood teacher who has been employed under both the VECTEA and Teacher Services Award (TSA), the benefits of being on the VECTEA are very clear to me.
Longer hours on the floor. When negotiating my contract under the TSA, I was offered a position with 25.5 hours on the floor and 12.5 hours planning. After working in the position for approximately a week, I questioned management why the staff in my room were not getting preparation and planning time.
I was told that their planning was to be taken out of my 12.5 hours. There was an expectation of two hours planning per educator per week, which equated to six hours, when taking into consideration breaks. If that educator was part of my team, I had to work on the floor to cover their planning, leaving me only 6.5 hours planning for a total of 60 children per week. The end results was I ended up working 31.5 hours on the floor (not as per my contract).
Another teacher secured 5.5 hours planning per week, again to be doled out to other staff, leaving that teacher with very little planning time and work that needed to be completed in her own time at home.
Annual leave. I was lucky enough to secure 11.4 weeks per year, but my colleague, unaware of this, had negotiated only four weeks. The VECTEA stipulates 11.4 weeks per year.
Hourly rate of pay. Initially management were going to pay me $30 per hour, compared to the $39.02 I’d have earned on the VECTEA. They advised that they could not afford that rate of pay which I knew was not the case, but I pushed on with negotiations. LDC educators shouldn’t have to bargain like this for fair pay.
Probationary period. VECTEA stipulates three months versus six months on the TSA.
Paperwork expectations. The expectations were totally unrealistic, leading to poor quality observations. My belief is quality over quantity and it goes back to allocated planning hours.
Ratios. One day I had a total of 36 children signed in the room. Management advised it was “under roofline” and within regulations due to children being absent in other rooms. Under the VECTEA, more than 33 children per day is considered excessive workload.
Sick and carer’s leave. VECTEA stipulates 15 days per year compared to 10 days under the TSA with the requirement to provide a medical certificate stating a specific illness – the standard ‘medical condition’ is not acceptable. If a medical certificate isn’t provided for a single day you will NOT get paid. This is not the case under the VECTEA.
Teachers and co-educators should not have to negotiate for what should be rightly theirs under the VECTEA. The benefits truly outweigh the cost of member contributions.
If centres are not under the scope of the VECTEA agreement it does not stop a collective of staff negotiating for better conditions, but you would need the assistance of the AEU.