Hard-fought agreement brings salary relief

Scott Coomber

New procedure ensures that teachers have their experience appropriately recognised

Teachers are seeing the fruits of Federation’s hard work to secure an agreement that means members are paid a salary commensurate with their service.

Thankful teachers spoke to Education about their cases and expressed relief that their pay now recognised their interstate and/or overseas teaching experience, and/or time off to have children.

Amanda Ritchie has taught for 10 years, four of them in Australia, lives in Byron Bay and is based at Southern Cross Distance Education.

“When I came here I was placed on the lowest salary band,” Ms Ritchie said. “In fact, the new salary bands meant that a new graduate, with no teaching experience, was on a slightly higher rate than me. To be honest, I felt really down about it. Moving countries is a challenging process let alone having to deal with unfair pay conditions when you get there. I felt like all my hard work, skills and experience meant nothing and I was starting again from scratch.

“I pride myself on being an innovative and passionate teacher that will get involved in new initiatives, put ideas forward and give that little bit extra for my school, community and my career progression.

"The low pay conditions and the fight for recognition really affected my self-esteem and worth. I knew that it wasn’t right and the Department was treating me so unfairly, but it was so ridiculous that I thought it would change quickly. I was wrong. It went on for two-and-a-half years.”

In 2016, the Department unilaterally implemented a new procedure used to determine teachers’ salaries that resulted in many hundreds of teachers being significantly underpaid.

Under the guise of transition to standards-based remuneration, the Department ceased to recognise overseas teaching, any teaching after a break of five years or more, periods of full-time child-rearing or military service when determining a teacher’s pay.

Ms Ritchie holds a first-class honours degree in Biomedical Science from Queens University Belfast and gained her Post Graduate Certificate in Secondary Science education from Southampton University.

“I then moved to Australia and was the absolute bottom of the public school system, competing for work, fair pay and conditions,” she said.

“Federation was great. Anna Collie, in particular, really supported me in my fight with the Department over pay. I had sent many emails and spent hours on the phone the previous year trying to get logical answers about my lack of recognition.

“I even had to do extra study at my own cost, and time, to become a fully accredited teacher as the department would not recognise my qualifications from the UK. I thought once I had completed the extra study that surely my pay issue would be resolved. It wasn’t.

“All the phone calls, emails and paper trail finally came through and the Department have now adjusted my salary to the correct position. Federation helped me feel reassured and supported in terms of what I was entitled to and that I was doing the right thing, and I did deserve it.”

Susan St John, a teacher for 22 years, said her successful salary review, with the assistance of Federation, gave her substantial back pay and her level of pay for casual teaching has been adjusted to the rate it should be.

“I was frustrated because the Department was making a decision that would particularly affect female teachers more than men,” she said. “Their decision was going to contribute to the male/female gender gap for pay. It would also affect any employee who had to leave service to care for an elderly parent, sick child or husband. This happens often.”

Months of painstaking negotiations between Federation and the Department of Education mean teachers may now be eligible to have the following criteria recognised to progress up the pay scale, if you have:

  • taught at an independent or Catholic school in NSW
  • taught in other Australian states or territories
  • taught students aged five to 18 years at a school overseas
  • spent time as the full-time carer of your children
  • had a break of five or more years in employment with the Department.

The new procedure ensures that teachers have their experience appropriately recognised under standards-based remuneration. This is vital for recruitment and the retention of experienced teachers in NSW public schools.

For more information and how to apply, see Federation’s Industrial Bulletin Service recognition for determining salary under standards-based remuneration in the Members’ Area here.

The Procedure and Information guides are available on the Department’s website and the Standards-Based Teacher Salary Procedure here. Teachers wishing to apply for a salary determination should complete the application form and submit it, with all relevant supporting documentation, via email by clicking here.