Schools The ABCs of an industrial agreement

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The current Victorian Government Schools Agreement expires in April 2021. The AEU has begun preparing for negotiation for the next agreement. The log of claims process is your opportunity as a member to inform the AEU about which issues matter most. Your elected representatives on the AEU leadership team and the 100 members of the joint primary and secondary sector council will discuss and vote on the final log of claims to be submitted to government next year.

What is the Victorian Government Schools Agreement?

The VGSA2017 is the fifth and current agreement between the AEU and DET. 

The VGSA is an enterprise agreement made under the Fair Work Act 2009. It provides the terms and conditions of employment for teachers, principals and education support class employees employed by DET.

The current VGSA has a nominal expiry date of 30 April 2021.  

It will continue to operate after that date unless terminated or replaced by another enterprise agreement.

What is a log of claims?

A log of claims is a document that sets out the matters that the AEU and its members will be bargaining for in the new VGSA. In October, the AEU Joint Primary and Secondary Sector Council endorsed a process to develop the log of claims (see page 2) for the next VGSA.

When does bargaining commence?

Bargaining will commence when the department either initiates bargaining or agrees to bargain. The AEU anticipates that formal bargaining for a new VGSA will start during Term 3 2020.

What is bargaining?

Bargaining entails engaging in a process of “give and take”. Those participating in the “bargaining” or negotiating must keep an “open mind” as to the prospect of ultimately reaching agreement.

What must be in an agreement?

  • Disputes – a dispute resolution procedure for matters under the VGSA (the procedure must allow for representation at any stage)
  • Flexibility term – the VGSA must have a clause that allows for individual flexibility on some limited matters
  • Consultation – the VGSA must also have a clause that deals with consultation over major changes and roster changes
  • Expiry – the VGSA needs to specify a nominal expiry date of anywhere up to four years
  • Coverage term – who the agreement will apply to (teachers, principals and ES staff employed by DET).

What else can go into an agreement?

  • Matters pertaining to the employer/employee relationship – clauses dealing with wages, leave, hours of work, overtime and penalty rates
  • Matters pertaining to the employer/union relationship – clauses dealing with union recognition clauses such as union training, union notice boards, meetings, involvement in consultation and dispute settlement procedures
  • Terms about deductions from wages – salary packaging arrangements
  • Terms about the operation of the agreement – how the enterprise agreement will operate, for example re-negotiation for a replacement agreement; definitions clauses; and the mandatory clauses set out above.

What cannot be in an agreement?

  • Discriminatory terms 
  • Objectionable terms – terms that permit breaches of the Fair Work Act
  • Opt-out terms – terms that allow an employee or employer to opt-out of the agreement
  • Certain unfair dismissal terms – for instance allowing access to unfair dismissal protections prior to the minimum employment period in the Fair Work Act
  • Certain industrial action terms – terms that are inconsistent with the regulation of industrial action under the Fair Work Act
  • Certain right of entry terms 
  • Certain superannuation terms
  • Constitutional limitations – there are limits on the extent to which the federal parliament can make laws in relation to Victoria (and therefore DET).

How is an agreement made?

Once an ‘in principle’ agreement is reached (approved by Joint Primary and Secondary Sector Council), the AEU conducts a ratification process with its members. Members covered by the proposed agreement are given the opportunity to attend a series of representative meetings around the state to either endorse or reject the proposed agreement.

If the agreement is ratified by AEU members, DET will be required under the Fair Work Act 2009 to conduct a ballot of all employees covered by the agreement.

The new VGSA will be made when a majority of employees who will be covered by the proposed agreement vote in favour of approving the agreement. Following that, the agreement must be lodged with the Fair Work Commission for certification.

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