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School Award negotiations and you
Bargaining is about collective power and strength. When you and your fellow members participate in union activities, the employer realises you are informed and united, putting Federation in its strongest possible bargaining position with the employer.
The union has been engaging with members over salaries and working conditions ahead of the negotiation of a new Crown Employees (Teachers in Schools and Related Employees) Salaries and Conditions Award.
- School workplaces have been surveyed to determine members’ priorities for salaries and conditions.
- Members elected as representatives to Federation’s democratic decision making forums, including Council and Annual Conference have played (and will continue to play) a meaningful role in the campaign.
- You can invite your Federation Organiser to address a meeting at your workplace.
- You can participate in your local association meeting.
You and your fellow members will be kept up to date during the bargaining period.
Each teacher in NSW is employed under the Crown Employees (Teachers in Schools and Related Employees) Salaries and Conditions Award, which sets out many of the working conditions of teachers and related employees — and these subsequently become the learning conditions of every child in NSW public schools.
The Award is negotiated between Federation and the NSW Department of Education. The union will always seek to improve the salaries and working conditions of its members. Historically, the government will seek to drive down costs and, in doing so, the conditions of the workforce. A settlement will arise from those two positions.
At the end of the process an Award is made as a decision of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, and is a legally enforceable.
The present schools Award expires on 31 December, 2019.
Bargaining around a replacement Award usually commences about three months prior to its expiry date, although Federation will, as determined in the September Council decision, “seek to open negotiations at the earliest date possible”.
The length of time that an Award operates is determined as part of the bargaining process. A three-year award was agreed upon in 2017, but in recent times Awards have had durations as short as 12 months.
Federation’s bargaining team traditionally comprises Federation’s Presidential Officers; Senior Officers, including the Deputy Secretary (Research/Industrial and Professional Support); and Research/Industrial Officers.
A feature of Award bargaining is a “Log of Claims”, which is presented by the Federation’s bargaining team. For the Federation, the Log of Claims will typically include a salary increase and reforms or improvements to working conditions.
The Department will also commonly have its own agenda, which will form the basis of its bargaining position. These claims are usually defined by parameters set out by the government of the day and Treasury.
The bargaining process can result in a negotiated settlement between the Federation and Department; however this process may take some time to achieve. If a negotiated settlement is achieved, the Senior Officers will make a recommendation to the Executive to settle the Award. Custom and practice has historically dictated that the union then calls for a statewide vote of members. This traditionally involves members coming together to hear from the Presidential Officers via video link to consider and vote on the offer and “Terms of Settlement” proposed by the Department.
If Federation’s bargaining team reaches an impasse or the offer presented is unacceptable, the Executive of the union may determine further action regarding the offer or situation at hand. This may also, as has been the case during negotiations previously, be determined at statewide meetings of the membership.
Either party may also seek the assistance of the Industrial Relations Commission to resolve such a situation, subject to the parameters outlined in legislation, including the state wages policy.
A similar article will be published in a future edition for teachers employed under the TAFE Commission of NSW Teachers and Related Employees Enterprise Agreement.