Lighten the load
The national early years agenda has meant a huge increase in workload for teachers and assistants. It's great that governments finally recognise the importance of our work — but they must provide the time and resources to let us do it.
This issue will be of major importance as we prepare to negotiate new agreements for the early childhood sector.
Bargaining our next agreements
Our main early childhood industrial agreements are soon to expire: the community preschool agreement VECTAA on January 26, 2013 and local government agreement LGECEEA on April 30, 2013.
The AEU will soon begin negotiating new agreements with Kindergarten Parents Victoria (for VECTAA) and the Municipal Association of Victoria (LGECEEA).
Our first step is to develop a log of claims. This sets out our claims for improvements to wages and conditions and is put to employers on behalf of our members. Our Early Childhood Sector Council endorsed a framework for the log of claims at its meeting on June 22.
What can we include in an agreement?
An industrial agreement can cover a range of matters related to your day-to-day work. It operates in tandem with documents such as the Act and Regulations, the Funding Criteria and policies of the day such as the National Quality Framework.
For example, the regulations determine staff/child ratios. The industrial agreements cannot alter or undermine these requirements in any way, but they can provide guidelines around caseload.
Likewise, the Funding Criteria require services to deliver a minimum number of hours in 4-year-old programs. Agreements can provide rules around teaching and non-teaching time, meal breaks, length of day and other arrangements.
It is important to understand how these various documents fit together and what we can address in negotiations.
The following can be addressed in enterprise agreements:
- Rates of pay
- Penalty rates and overtime
- Standard hours
- Personal and annual leave
- Deductions from wages for any purpose authorised by the employer
- Matters pertaining to the relationship between the employer and employees
- Matters pertaining to the relationship between the employer and employee organisations covered by the agreement
- How the agreement will operate.
Some terms must be included in all agreements:
- Dispute resolution: allowing disputes under the agreement and the National Employment Standards to be brought before an independent person such as Fair Work Australia
- Flexibility: allowing employee and employer to make an individual arrangement varying the effect of the agreement
- Consultation: requiring employers to consult employees over major changes to the business
- Nominal expiry date: the date the agreement expires; this must be within four years of Fair Work Australia's approval
- Coverage: explaining who is covered by the agreement — eg, all employees of a particular employer.
Certain terms, called unlawful or objectionable terms, cannot be included in an agreement:
- Discriminatory terms
- Terms that breach the general protections provisions in Part 3-1 of the Fair Work Act 2009
- Terms that require a bargaining services fee to be paid
- Terms inconsistent with the unfair dismissal provisions in the Act
- Terms that modify the law relating to industrial action in Part 3-3 of the Act
- Terms relating to right of entry which are not in accordance with Part 3-4 of the Act.
The reason for this campaign
Early childhood teachers and assistants work for the best educational outcomes for preschool children in Victoria. The national early childhood reform agenda recognises the critical role of your work to the life chances of children. But these new government initiatives have seen a profound increase in the workload of staff, in particular teachers.
An AEU workload survey (PDF 500KB) of teachers and assistants has found the profession overwhelmed by the pace of change, struggling to cope and with a majority expecting to leave the sector within five years.
The AEU is campaigning for a fair deal for teachers and assistants, to give them the resources to implement the changes — changes that the sector broadly supports.
Recognising the value of what you do is all well and good but it is fruitless without the resources to enable you to continue to do it.
For many, workload is affecting their decision to stay or leave the profession.
This would be counter-productive to the sector's ability to respond to our state and federal governments' agenda. The sector, the profession and educational programs for the children of Victoria will be the poorer should we lose committed, experienced, dedicated staff.
Our success will depend on the willingness of the sector to stand up together and argue our case for fair and just working conditions.
AEU workload survey
You can download the key findings and analysis of our workload survey here (PDF).
2012 Branch conference resolution
The AEU's annual branch conference unanimously passed a resolution, Supporting the Profession, relating to early childhood educators' workload and calling for greater time release and funding to allow teachers and assistants to prepare for the changes underway as part of the national reform agenda.
2011 Branch conference resolution
The following resolution in relation to early childhood workload was passed unanimously at Branch Conference and provides further direction for our Lighten the Load campaign.
- Read the resolution here (PDF 17KB)