The introduction of free and expanded kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds over the next decade is an exciting shift for the early childhood sector in Victoria. The Andrews government has announced a $9 billion investment in early childhood, involving an expansion from 15 to 30 hours of four-year-old kinder (described as a ‘pre-prep’ year); free kinder for all three- and four-year-olds; and 50 new government-run childcare centres.
As the Victorian government continues to roll out two years of funded kindergarten, the AEU has been supporting members to understand their rights and entitlements under the sector’s benchmark agreements, the Victorian Early Childhood Teachers and Educators Agreement (VECTEA) and the Early Education Employees Agreement (EEEA). To ensure every child gets a high-quality education, we need a qualified, secure, well-supported workforce – making Victoria’s benchmark agreements more important than ever. This is reflected in the Early Childhood National Workforce strategy, which refers to VECTEA as setting the standard for the sector.
Consultation and conversations in the workplace are central to the successful implementation of agreements. The best way to stay informed and to ensure you are accessing your entitlements is to set up networks and structures at the local level, and to attend our targeted union training.
Here is a checklist of key rights and entitlements, and some important processes, to help that implementation run smoothly.
Significant changes in the early childhood agreements include:
- Significant pay increases for all staff, and pay parity between kindergarten and school teachers at every level
- Removal of the hard barrier created by teacher validation (as of February 2022), replaced by a simpler process so that teachers are able to access much higher wages
- Allocated time for Educational Leaders and Nominated Supervisors to help alleviate workload
- Three organisational days per year
- Time release for provisionally registered teachers and their mentors of up to four days (VECTEA), and equivalent support and time in local government (EEEA)
- Two professional development days (pro rata) for educators
- Increased personal leave for educators from 10 to 15 days (VECTEA)
- Any required out-of-hours work to be by agreement, in writing, with 14-working days notice and paid (VECTEA)
- Increased parental leave for primary caregivers to 16 weeks and four weeks for secondary carers (VECTEA), and equivalent entitlements in local government (EEEA)
- Paid family violence leave of 20 days per year (VECTEA), or relevant amount in local government (EEEA)
- Union training leave of up to five days and up to eight days leave for AEU sector councillors
- Employee Assistance Program for community-based kindergartens.
Consultation and discussion are key to implementation:
- Conversations between PRTs and mentors are needed to determine the most suitable structures for any support required for the VIT inquiry process
- Discussions on rostering should occur between employees and employers to determine which staff are rostered on for common organisational days, and to establish entitlements for those not normally rostered on
- Professional development activities should be determined jointly between employees and employer
- Use the workload index as a tool to regulate workload, taking into consideration group sizes and the amount of contact time
- Teachers directed by their employer to attend work outside of their normal rostered hours should ensure they are given 14 days notice in writing and paid the ordinary rate of pay; educators will need to access their overtime provision
- Your contract/letter of employment and position description are important documents that underpin what is required of you; consultation must be implemented if your roles and responsibilities are changed in any significant way
- Check that you have been appropriately translated to the new pay scale, effective from the first full pay period on or after 1 October 2020, and that you received your backpay
- Ensure that you are paid the appropriate amount when performing higher duties