SECRETARIAT REPORT – BRANCHES’ ANNUAL GENERAL MEETINGS OCTOBER 2019
On 18 May 2019, the Liberal National Party Coalition Government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, was returned with a one seat majority.
While strong campaigning by ACTU unions to ‘Change the Rules’ ensured that education, health, job security and living wages were kept in the voters’ focus during the election, it did not provide for a change of government.
The Federal Election result now means that union members are up for another difficult three years fighting a federal government ideologically opposed to workers’ rights.
Inequality is rising. Nearly half of the workers in Australia are in insecure workand Australia is currently experiencing the longest period of low wage growth since the end of World War II .
Wage growth figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has confirmed that the country is in negative real wage growth territory. Yearly GDP growth has tumbled to 1.4 per cent marking the lowest point since the GFC a decade ago.
Half of all new jobs in the economy are second jobs and people working two jobs earn less than those working one. More than one million people working part time can’t get enough hours .
Women working full time in Australia are paid on average 14.1 per cent less than men and retire with around half of the superannuation balances that men do.
The RBA has repeated calls for action on wage growth to re-start the economy.
Despite this economic situation, one of the first acts for the newly elected Morrison Government was to seek to introduce legislation for union-busting laws.
The “Ensuring Integrity Bill” is an extreme anti-democratic law that would allow employers, politicians and other ‘stakeholders’ to apply to have union leaders sacked from their jobs and entire unions de-registered.
The Government’s attempt to paint it as safeguarding protections for workers is merely a smoke screen. IEU members know that at the draft legislation’s core, is an attack on ordinary workers and if passed by Parliament, will result in unsafe workplaces, increased wage theft, superannuation theft, exploitation and further suppressed wages.
A further act of the Morrison Government has been to introduce a series of draft Bills under the auspices of ‘Religious Freedom’ and ‘Religious Discrimination’. Despite the titles, the draft legislation continues the practice of limiting the rights of IEU members who work in faith-based education.
The proposed legislations exempt religious schools from allowing their employees the same rights that all other Australians are entitled to in terms of freedom of religion and discrimination.
IEU strongly believes that employers in faith-based schools do not need the religious exemptions currently available to them nor those proposed within the Bill. Current contractual law obligations and legislation more than adequately provide for employers to manage their workforces consistent with their beliefs and tenets.
Our union believes that:
- all staff and students in schools deserve safe workplaces/learning environments; and
- staff in schools should not be discriminated against on the basis of their personal lives.
Practices in faith-based schools, and indeed in any endeavour conducted for the public by faith- organisations, should reflect community standards and expectations.
The government has only allowed for four weeks of consultation relating to the Bill and the IEU has made submissions to the Attorney General’s Department regarding the proposed legislation.
All in all, the Morrison Government is not serious about addressing the real issues impacting on the Australian community and our schools. Recommendations from numerous inquiries such as Status of Teacher Inquiry, the NAPLAN Review, review into the Resource Loading For Students With Special Needs, remain unaddressed. This has resulted in a raft of issues such as resourcing of students with special needs, teacher attrition rates, teacher burnout and staff and student wellbeing remaining off the political agenda.
The Morrison Government continues to fail Australian workers, schools and communities
The following provides an outline of the issues and challenges which the IEU has been actively addressing through 2019.
With some of the State Government and Territories reviewing NAPLAN underway, and a new Federal Government it is timely that the question of fit-for-purpose is asked about the national assessment.
Since its introduction in 2008, the IEU has argued that the program’s intended use and value is questionable and confused. It is simultaneously seen as a diagnostic tool for individual students, a ‘health-check’ on Australian school education and a comparator of school-by-school achievement and success.
In relation to the latter, IEU has seen the eagerness of some media outlets to distil the snapshot of a section of school education outcomes by adding disparate columns of scores and averaging the same to produce league tables.
We have seen the continued failure of the system to deliver student results, in any sort of timely fashion that would allow teachers and school officers/support staff any chance of strategic intervention.
However, more problematic is the idea that this thin sliver of school activity somehow represents in any adequate way a ‘health-check’ on the achievements of schools against the breadth of the Australian curriculum or the aspirations of the Melbourne Declaration.
To inform the IEUA’s submission to the Education Council to COAG Inquiry into NAPLAN, a survey was sent out to IEUA members and was completed by over 2800 members between March 1 and March 13, 2019 The comments recorded by members completing this survey provided some very powerful information for the IEU Submission.
A sliding scale ranking system was used for most of the questions. The scale used ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ as the end point parameters. The results were scored and then averaged. A score close to zero would indicate almost all responses were ‘strongly disagree’ while a score close to 100 would indicate overwhelmingly ‘strongly agree’.
On the question of: “Do you believe the results of NAPLAN tests provide an accurate evaluation of your individual student’s abilities in numeracy and literacy” an average rank of 35 was scored; meaning that IEU members generally disagreed with the statement.
When asked “Are the NAPLAN results useful for your planning for student learning” members indicated that overall they disagreed. IEU members believe strongly that the NAPLAN data and results currently arrive too late in the year to be of high value. IEU members supported with roughly the same strength of opinion that “A national assessment tool, either in its current form or continuously available, should be available from early in the year for teachers to use according to their professional judgement”. Similarly, IEU members supported the notion that the “Timeliness of the assessment and data should be determined by the classroom teacher”.
Over 70% of respondents indicated that their school spent time in the classroom ‘preparing’ for NAPLAN, with members indicating that this preparation somewhat impacted negatively on time available for teaching the curriculum.
Less than 30% of respondents indicated that their school had collaborated with other schools in the last 2-3 years on how to improve literacy and/or numeracy as a consequence of the NAPLAN results/data.
Two thirds of respondents agreed with the statement that they would “Support the notion of a sampling process (in lieu of mass standardized testing in Years 3,5,7 and 9 annually) to provide ongoing confidence in a needs-based funding model (ie accountability) and to confirm benchmarks for the use by classroom teachers”.
Overwhelmingly, 88% of respondents, supported the proposition that “The development of formative assessment tasks, created by and for teachers, that would be available online for use in classrooms when and where needed (as determined by the classroom teacher) would enable valid teacher’s assessment of student outcomes against national benchmarks”.
The IEU believes that schools, students and classroom teachers will be much better served by an assessment arrangement that provides for continual assessment with tools to support teacher professional judgement and allows for teachers to reflect and check their own judgements.
Unfortunately, the current arrangements are seen by many teachers as an external check on their professional capacity because of an erosion of trust, invariably inflamed by ideological positions adopted by some education ‘commentators’.
Increasingly, teacher professionals and education researchers are reflecting on the value and desire to re-design student assessments that are authentic and of value and utility to the student, the parents (carers) and the classroom teacher, by integrating the continual assessment in the classroom with a ‘student voice’. This approach, requiring adequate resources of time for the teacher to sit with the student and discuss what has been learned, and what they perceive and recognize as needs, provides significantly greater value in the data that is available for reporting.
There is already a significant amount of data being collected on students. Teachers are currently overwhelmed by the data collection required of them and if the assessment program is not meaningful and valuable it is just a further impost that potentially interferes with the teaching-learning opportunities in the classroom.
The question as to whether NAPLAN has a useful and productive future in schools will fundamentally depend on the willingness of state, territory and federal education ministers to broaden their consideration of the current review parameters (being only the reporting of NAPLAN on MySchool) and engage fully and frankly with the profession.
The IEU believes that the NAPLAN is not ‘fit for purpose’ and that there has been an increasing detachment not only from the stated objectives of the program, but departure from the role of the assessments and the reporting on the MySchool website and from the nature of the assessments and the utility for classroom teachers.
The IEU believes that a future NAPLAN should utilize a sampling process rather than full-cohort, census style assessment. We further believe that similar school comparisons need to be replaced with comparisons of similar student cohorts; that is, students with similar socio-economic, educational advantage, language and other backgrounds.
The IEU believes that there is already a plethora of quality diagnostic tools available to schools and that ACARA could assist in reviewing, testing and rating the utility of these diagnostic tests against expected curriculum outcomes and learning progressions.
The IEU believes that this fundamental re-shaping of the NAPLAN must be done in consultation with and respect for the teaching profession.
If there is a political willingness by education ministers to respect the professional judgement of classroom teachers, then an evolved NAPLAN may indeed have a useful and productive future in the Australian school landscape.
Nationally Consistent Collection of Data
From 1 January 2018, the Federal Government has used NCCD to calculate the students with disability loading in recurrent funding for schools and its introduction has marked a significant alteration in the way schools receive funding to support inclusion of students with additional needs.
The data required is significant in quality and quantity and is onerous upon the school.
This significant volume of data needed to be documented is causing severe workload issues and the IEU has called upon employers to address these issues.
IEU members have expressed concern that the processes and procedures used to identify and document the level of adjustment provided for each student with disability can be audited. Members are concerned that any oversight or omission in planning and documenting teaching adjustments could result in a loss of funding for their students and their school.
IEU has called upon employers to have clear and consistent processes for recording and monitoring changes in teaching and learning practices. Further, the IEU has made clear statements that it is unacceptable for classroom teachers to be solely responsible and unsupported in meeting the demands of these requirements.
Resource Loading For Student With Disability
In August 2019, the IEU made a submission into the National School Resourcing Board Review Of The Loading For Student With Disabilities, highlighting the significant issues being experienced by IEU members.
In particular, the IEU emphasised the problems associated with the Australian Government continuing to calculate the student with disability (SWD) loading as a “sharing of the total available recurrent funds on an ad hoc basis” rather than being related to the actual cost of delivering the learning adjustments identified through the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data( NCCD).
The current arrangement perpetuates a funding model based on a pre-determined ‘value’ of the learning adjustment required and is not underpinned by any actual measure of the needs of students.
The result of this arbitrary percentage of Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) means the SWD funding is inadequate and student learning needs are not being appropriately resourced by the current funding arrangement. Access to resources and expert support and intervention was patchy. Students in regional, rural and remote areas were missing out on entitled support.
The IEU further highlighted in its submission, that while the move to utilise the NCCD to collect data on students with disability has been important in developing in schools an improved understanding of the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Education Standards, it was abundantly clear that IEU members were not receiving the necessary support and resources to ensure they can adequately undertake the NCCD requirement.
It was also abundantly clear that the significant ‘red-tape’ and quality assurance required of schools in justifying and evidencing their decisions meant that considerable resources were directed away from student learning adjustments to meet administrative demands.
Further, it was highlighted that in about one third of all assessments, despite the work of teachers and schools in collecting, measuring, making decisions, collating and keeping the data, there is no funding provided for students with a disability
If the current federal ministerial and federal budgetary positions remain as policy for school funding beyond 2019, students with disabilities will continue to miss out.
The IEU has called for an immediate review and adjustment of SWD loadings in the context of the NCCD data.
Status of Teaching
Twenty-one years ago, the Australian Senate held an inquiry into the status of teachers and later released its report, A Class Act containing 19 recommendations on what should be done to help the teaching profession rebuild its status in Australian society.
Now, at time when these recommendations should be coming of age after being implemented, we find that there continues to be a marked decline in the morale and status of the teaching profession.
Yet a further federal inquiry;(House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training Inquiry Into The Status of Teachers) was launched at the beginning of 2019 and the IEU provided a submission with IEU members attending the various roundtable discussions.
In its submission, the IEU strongly emphasised that schooling continues to be subjected to the ideology and rhetoric of the marketplace and economic rationalism by policy makers and commentators.. This approach jars heavily with the collaborative and co-operative approach most teachers believe underpins quality teaching and learning, and the deep commitment teachers display to the education and welfare of every student.
The full findings of the 2019 Inquiry were never released due to the closure of the 45th Parliament of Australia ahead of the Federal Election. Instead, the House of Representatives’ Committee released a summary of the major issues that arose during the public hearings.
Many of the issues listed were also part of the IEU submission including: negative promotion of the teaching and education particularly by media, community leaders and politicians; the need for higher recognition and respect for the profession; the need for proper induction and mentoring programs, the need for specialist support to help manage the social, behavioural and health related issues of students; teacher professional judgement being marginalised; and, the amount of unpaid work being undertaken by teachers at home.
With the government now in place for another term, the release of the report and its recommendations along with genuine engagement with the IEU should be a priority for the Morrison Government and Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.
National School Reform Agreement
The National School Reform Agreement has been established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to deliver strategic reform in school education and to contribute to the major objective of providing a high quality and equitable education for all students.
The Agreement is based on three major reform directions that are supported around the following initiatives that support the three major reform directions:
- Supporting students, student learning and student achievement
- Enhancing the Australian Curriculum to support teacher assessment of student attainment and growth against clear descriptors
- Assisting teachers monitor individual student progress and identify student learning needs through opt-in online and on demand student learning assessment tools with links to student learning resources, prioritising early years foundation skills
- Reviewing senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training
- Supporting teaching, school leadership and school improvement
- Reviewing teacher workforce needs of the future to attract and retain the best and brightest to the teaching profession and attract teachers to areas of need
- Strengthening the initial teacher education accreditation system
- Enhancing the national evidence base
- Implementing a national unique student identifier (USI) that meets national privacy requirements in order to support better understanding of student progression and improve the national evidence base
- Establishing an independent national evidence institute to inform teacher practice, system improvement and policy development
In recognition that the responsibility for education lies with each state and territory government further bilateral agreements have been signed outlining the specific initiatives each individual state and territory will undertake to advance the national reforms. These agreements also specify the funding contributions of each state and territory to government and non-government schools in their jurisdiction.
These bilateral agreements can be found at https://www.education.gov.au/national-school-reform-agreement-0
A complete understanding of the details of these relevant bilateral agreement(s) will assist to inform IEU Branch Collective Agreement negotiations over the next few years.
National Learning Progressions and Online Formative Assessment Initiative
In May 2019 three organisations; Education Services Australia (ESA); Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA); and, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), under the governance of the Education Council commenced work on the National Learning Progressions and Online Formative Assessment Initiative. This initiative is part of the major reforms outlined in the National School Reform Agreement.
The first part of their work, the discovery phase, will investigate learning progressions that are already in use (National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions), consult with the teaching profession and analyse the needs of this group, and research professional learning that will lead to the effective and successful implementation of the initiative. The group is due to report to the Government in December 2019.
The IEU attended the stakeholder forum held in Canberra in September 2019, and was interested to hear from the project management leader, Jenny Donovan, that she is particularly aware of major issues such as workload and change fatigue affecting teachers and other school staff. We await further developments
Further information on this initiative can be found at https://www.lpofai.edu.au/
Closing The Gap
The Closing the Gap 2019 Report was the final report using the Closing the Gap framework established in 2008. Only two of the seven Closing the Gap targets were on track to be met after ten years; pre-school enrolment rates and Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates. These targets set in 2008 were ambitious, complex and aimed at intergenerational change without key levers to make it happen.
This year (2019) marks the transition to a new whole of government agenda with all Australian governments sharing accountability for progress and extending this shared accountability to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Future efforts will be based around the following key elements:
- Working in partnership at all levels to draw on the wisdom and local knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- A strengths-based, community-led approach where initiatives identified and led by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are supported.
- Working with state and territory governments to ensure a cohesive approach to providing services for First Australians.
- A robust evidence base, using research and evaluation from the newly established Evaluation Framework and the Indigenous Research Exchange, informs the most effective policies and programs.
- Accountability through the creation of a whole of government evaluation strategy in the Productivity Commission for policies and programs impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
A Joint Council on Closing the Gap, comprising of representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies and Commonwealth, state and local governments, has been formed and this Council is currently involved in a public engagement process discussing proposed reform priorities. A draft National Agreement on Closing the Gap is due to be endorsed by the Council by November 2019.
The role of awards in setting members’ actual rates of pay and conditions has been reduced with each successive wave of legislation since the introduction of enterprise agreements. Many of the rights conferred by awards have been lost and have had to be fought for again through bargaining. Award rates of pay have only increased minimally each year and have lost touch with market rates.
Less than 5% of all school teachers in Australia now rely on the award for their entitlements. (Those who do are predominantly employed in low-fee Independent schools.) The only contact the majority of IEU members may have with awards is when a new agreement is made.
An agreement can only be approved if its terms are “better off overall” for the workers covered by it than the relevant award. As the top award rate for a teacher is only 67% of the rate paid to most Australian teachers, this comparison is a formality.
Nevertheless awards still set a range of safety-net industry-related conditions. As these are eroded over time bargaining for better conditions at the workplace inevitably becomes more difficult. Equally importantly the award system allows unions to attempt to vary the safety-net by introducing new rights which will apply to all workers in a given industry and/or profession.
Four Year Review of Awards
This review of awards commenced in 2014 and is still running. Legislation provided that awards were to be reviewed every 4 years to ensure that they were operating effectively. As the first review is in its sixth year, with no signs of an end, all parties, unsurprisingly, have agreed to end the process of 4 year reviews.
The review has taken the form of applications by employers and unions to vary individual awards as well as applications by the ACTU on behalf of unions and employer groups on behalf of employers to vary many awards.
A summary of significant developments in the Four Year Review of Awards follows:
Casual Employees right to convert to ongoing employment
This condition of employment was previously confined to a small number of awards.
Following an application by the ACTU on behalf of all unions, the Commission has already varied 85 awards to include casual conversion provisions. The General Staff Award, covering all employers in schools except teachers and the Post-Secondary Award have been varied to include this new entitlement.
Time Off In Lieu (TOIL)
The award now refers to this entitlement as “Time off instead of payment for overtime”.
The Commission has added a range of mandatory procedures to the award. Agreements to take time off instead of overtime must be reached in writing. The award now includes a schedule with a model agreement.
The key features of the revised entitlement are:
- At any time, instead of taking time in lieu and even if a future TOIL period has been agreed, an employee may request that the employer pay overtime for hours worked. These hours must be paid at overtime rates and payment must be made in the next pay period.
- TOIL must be taken within six months of the overtime being worked or paid as overtime in the following pay period.
- TOIL can only be taken at a time agreed between the employer and employee.
- The employer must not exert undue pressure or influence on an employee to agree to take TOIL instead of being paid overtime.
The General Staff Award has been varied to include new provisions in respect of Annual Leave.
Members can now reach agreement with their employer to facilitate the taking of annual leave in advance and the cashing out of annual leave.
Where an employee has accrued more than 8 weeks annual leave (“excessive leave”), after having attempted to reach agreement with an employee on how that leave is to be taken, an employer may direct an employee to take leave provided that:
- the employee’s leave balance is not reduced to less than 6 weeks;
- the amount of leave directed to be taken is not less than 1 week; and
- that leave is taken no less than 8 weeks and no more than 12 weeks after the direction is given
However, where an employee has accrued more than 8 weeks leave and unresolved discussions have taken place with the employer and the employer has not issued a direction, then, provided the employee has had the excessive leave balance for 6 months, the employee may advise the employer that they will be taking leave. The proviso’s listed above around quantum and timing apply equally in this instance.
Matters Awaiting Decision
At the time this report was prepared the Commission was still yet to finally determine a number of matters before it. These included:
- Our application seeking to vary awards to confirm that coverage of Teacher Directors in Early Childhood Education lies with the Teachers Award;
- As part of the plain language drafting initiative, the Commission has advanced a provisional view that, where employees provide short notice, there should be a mandatory maximum of 1 weeks withholding of pay in awards where 4 weeks is the period of notice in the award. The Commission invited submissions from parties. We have submitted in respect of the Teachers Award that the withholding maximum should be revised downward to 9 days and the AIS has made submissions that it should remain at the full period of notice, i.e. 7 weeks;
- Questions relating to the payment of overtime to casuals in the General Staff Award including: the nature and scope of the entitlement and the method of calculation;
- The final exposure draft of the Teachers Award, i.e. all of the relevant variations applied to the award as a result of the review process including matters common to all or most awards
Attraction and retention of qualified teachers is vital to the delivery of quality early childhood education and to enable this, salaries of teachers working in early childhood education and care centres must be comparable to those teachers’ salaries in school settings. However, significant pay inequity remains for early childhood education teachers.
Since 2013, the IEU members has been seeking, from the Fair Work Commission, an equal remuneration order for teachers working in early childhood education (ECE) on Award rates. This order would effectively provide that ECE teachers receive the same award pay as teachers working in schools.
For ECE teachers currently receiving minimum award wages, this would mean an increase of more than 30%.
Over 95% of early childhood teachers employed in long day care centres and preschools are women. Our union’s case is that the value of the work performed is the same as that of teachers in primary and secondary schools and of professionals in other industries.
Broadening the Scope: Pay Equity for All Teachers
In determining the matter, the Commission decided to examine changes in work value for all teachers on the Modern Awards.
The award rate for teachers has not moved to reflect increases in work value since at least 1995.
Yet the work environment in which teachers work has altered significantly over the last 20 years.
Rather than the traditional classroom, increasingly teachers are working in open plan classrooms; ‘agile space’ environments, including with multi-age groupings; in self-paced learning environments for students, including where they are using their own devices, with consequent impact on the physical and mental aspects of the work, including an increase on noise, and a higher degree of more difficult supervision required.
The award contains rates of pay that are considerably below the rates necessary to achieve the modern awards objective of being a fair and relevant safety net.
While the vast majority of primary and secondary school teachers are covered by collective agreements, there still remains some schools and many early childhood education centres that are award dependent. This results in a pay gap of 22-30% less than those teachers on agreement.
The Commission’s final decision is expected between December 2019 and April 2020.
IEU Speaks on Exemptions to Religious Discrimination
The IEU has expressed its serious concerns with the federal government’s draft Religious Discrimination legislation.
The IEU is disappointed at the continuing practice of governments to polarize, disenfranchise and make a ‘whipping post’ of the rights of our members who work in faith-based education.
Yet again proposed legislation completely exempts religious schools from allowing their employees the same rights that all other Australians enjoy. Here it is not the freedom to love and marry who they wish but the freedom of religion and belief itself.
Religious schools don’t need this legislation.
The IEU believes that the vast majority of employers in faith- based schools have no difficulty in employing staff of other faiths and in fact are not threatened by their staff or students expressing diverse views.
The IEU has and will continue to lobby governments and politicians to remove the unreasonable and harmful exemptions from discrimination law enjoyed by employers in our industry.
As the IEU has made abundantly clear in our recent submissions and appearances before Senate inquiries, we believe that these exemptions are not required by employers. Current contractual law obligations and legislation more than adequately provide for employers to manage their workforces consistent with their beliefs.
The IEU will call upon the Parliament of Australia to reject this current Bill as it not only fails to improve the current undermining of rights of our members but is an untidy and problematic drafting of legislation that will cause further confusion.
The IEU will continue to carefully examine the Bill, seek expert advice and engage with stakeholders to ensure that IEUA members’ interests are paramount.
Campaign to End Sexual Harassment At Work
Last year, the AHRC launched an independent national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace.
This 12-month investigation led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins aimed at highlighting a much needed light on a system which is failing Australian workers, particularly women and provide individuals and organisations from all over Australia with opportunities to speak about their experiences.
The IEU supported the ACTU in developing a submission to the AHRC inquiry and which places a national action to highlight the incidences of sexual harassment in the workforce.
The ACTU survey of nearly 10 000 people which provided the foundational facts to the submission showed that two in three women and one in three men have been subjected to one or more forms of sexual harassment.
The survey identified that of 9 607 respondents:
- 69% had experienced crude or offensive behaviour.
- 48% experienced unwanted sexual attention.
- 35% experienced inappropriate touching.
- 18% received explicit texts, emails or messages on social media.
- 8% experienced sexual coercion.
In addition to personal experiences, 66% of respondents said that they had witnessed sexual harassment at work.
While 58.8% of those who had experienced harassment told someone about their experience, only 26.7% chose to make a formal complaint. The main reason people (cited by 55% of respondents) declined to pursue a formal complaint was that they feared negative repercussions.
Workers who are sexually harassed need access to fair, effective and efficient complaints mechanisms, as well as the power to act collectively through their unions to create safe and healthy work environments. This can only be achieved through collective union campaigning.
The IEU continues to work with ACTU unions to campaign to end sexual harassment in the workplace
New International Labour Standard to Combat Violence, Harassment, at Work
A new Convention ( ILO C190) and accompanying Recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the world of work have been adopted by the International Labour Conference (ILC).
The Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 and Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019, were adopted by delegates on the final day of the Centenary International Labour Conference, in Geneva. For the Convention, 439 votes were cast in favour, seven against, with 30 abstentions. The Recommendation was passed with 397 votes in favour, 12 votes against and 44 abstentions. The ACTU played a significant role in negotiating the Convention and achieving the final endorsed outcomes.
The Convention recognizes that violence and harassment in the world of work “can constitute a human rights violation or abuse…is a threat to equal opportunities, is unacceptable and incompatible with decent work.” It defines “violence and harassment” as behaviours, practices or threats “that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.” It reminds member States that they have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”.
The new international labour standard aims to protect workers and employees, irrespective of their contractual status, and includes persons in training, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants. It recognizes that “individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer” can also be subjected to violence and harassment.
It is essential now that pressure continues on member countries to finalise their ratification of Convention 190
National Gender Pay Gap. Complacency Remains.
Wednesday 28 August 2019 was Gender Pay Day. This date illustrates the 59 additional days from the end of the previous financial year that women must work to earn the same amount as men earn in twelve months.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has calculated the national gender pay gap as 14.0% for full-time employees; a difference of $241.50 per week.
The fact that the national Gender Pay Gap has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades is sad indictment on what our Governments and Employers consider as priorities
What Does It All Mean?
The Gender Pay Gap is a symbol of women’s position in the workforce in comparison to men. It is the difference between the average earnings of women and men in the entire Australian workforce and is the result of different social and economic factors that have a tremendous impact on how women and men live their lives.
It reflects the fact that women’s work is traditionally undervalued, and women are often paid less than men. As well, women are under-represented in senior executive and management roles and female dominated occupations and industries attract lower pay than male dominated ones.
Research[i] shows that the main factors contributing to the gender pay gap are;
- Discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions.
- Women and men working in different industries and different jobs, with female dominated industries and jobs attracting lower wages.
- Women’s disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work.
- Lack of workplace flexibility to accommodate caring and other responsibilities, especially in leadership roles.
- Women’s greater time out of the workplace impacting career progression and opportunities.
It Is Time For Change
Women currently make up 49% of Australian workplaces and more than 70% of education employees, and yet, there are still far too many challenges confronting women in the workplace.
These challenges exist because workplace rules are broken, and the Federal Government has failed to address the issues. The Federal Government has failed to
- To implement a living wage, failed to support people with caring responsibilities;
- To address the inequality of superannuation payments;
- To rectify the inadequacies of the Fair Work Act.
The IEU has called on the Federal Government to stop short changing women and start addressing gender inequality
BOLD Stronger Together
In August 2019, 100 IEU women BOLD enough to bring about change, not only in their Union but in society at large, gathered together in Sydney for the BOLD Stronger Together 2019 Conference.
The conference provided an opportunity for identified BOLD IEU women to hear from significant political, social and union female leaders and commence their participation in the ongoing BOLD program.
The keynote address was delivered by writer and presenter Jamila Rizvi, who urged BOLD participants to stop saying they were “lucky”.
Jamila Rizvi argued women frequently put down their success in life to “luck”, rather than acknowledging the hard work and skill that has made them who they are. She outlined the systemic and persistent disadvantages that continue to plague women in the workforce, such as the lack of superannuation for women who tend to be in lower paid jobs.
The strong line up of speakers and panellists also included Jennifer Moses, the National Officer for Equality and Training at NASUWT, the teachers’ union in the UK and Neselinda Meta COPE Women Network Coordinator.
A panel discussion Where to #MeToo was led by Sophie Ismail, ACTU Industrial Officer, Sascha Peldova- McClelland, Unions NSW and Jennifer Moses NASUWT and outlined the real need to step out about Gender Violence.
Participants were also led into a lively discussion by the BOLD union women leaders Deb James IEU VICTAS Branch Secretary, Angela Briant IEU WA Branch Secretary, Emma Bacon APHEDA and Neselinda Meta COPE Women Coordinator on using our BOLD power to lead.
Kick Arse Activists panellists, Sara El Sayed, Mia Dabblestein , Mahla Conomos and Sara Mansour, provided a inspiring and creative discussion with BOLD participants regarding the need for authenticity in our activism and leadership.
Conference workshops, which were either conducted or coordinated by the BOLD program participants, covered a variety of topics such as BOLD actions for respectful workplaces, getting our voices out, authentic activism and networking.
Participants planned out their Ideal feminist workplace by identifying the essential and winnable elements.
During the conference, delegates were asked two questions: Why do we need women to be BOLD leaders in our Union? How will you use your BOLD power to bring about change?
Importantly the BOLD Stronger Together Conference launches the next three years of the BOLD program which focusses on developing the leadership and activist skills of IEU women in our union and community.
IEU Organising Workshop
In November 2018, 35 organisers from around the country came to Sydney for the IEU Organising Workshop which focussed on developing values-based conversations in recruiting and organising members.
At the workshop, organisers identified specific union values that can be utilised in communicating with various sections of our membership, for example, student members, support staff, beginning teachers and experienced teachers in different types of workplaces.
Guest speaker Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW, provided an insightful analysis of a combined Union campaign in resisting the privatisation of hospitals in NSW. Mark was forthcoming about some of the early missteps in the campaign and the lessons learnt from a campaign that was initially built on assumptions rather than research and analysis. His story of how three large Unions, united by common values and a shared sense of purpose, were ultimately successful in derailing the state government’s plans to privatise five hospitals had lessons for us all.
Organisers who attended the day reported positively on the workshop design and focus as well as reporting that the networking and sharing of ideas with their interstate colleagues was an invaluable experience. They came away keen to develop the “why” into campaigning, recruitment and activism conversations.
The IEU Organising and Campaigning Committee met in February 2019, to hear reports from Branches on how the “why” has being imbedded in various organisers strategies and bargaining work.
The committee has continued work on the next IEU Organising workshop which is scheduled for 31 October 2019 in Brisbane. The theme is Building Union Power and the workshop will focus on the development of a strategic thinking tool kit. The guest speaker will be Martin De Rooy from the National Union of Workers (NUW) who will discuss the successful NUW’s Chemist Warehouse campaign.
Participants will consider the various challenges in organising around school level issues or when building support around a claim for a sector wide enterprise agreement. Organisers will workshop the various skills, strategies and resources that can be employed to build union power and deliver wins for union members.
IEU National Officers’ Forum
In May 2019, around 100 IEU officers from each IEU Branch came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities impacting on our union.
The National Officers’ Forum Unions Matter Move than Even was held in Glenelg, South Australia. and provided profession development opportunities to IEU officers through guest speakers and workshops. Keynote speaker Michelle O’Neil ACTU President provided a commentary on the Change the Rules campaign. Tim Gartrell, Partner from Collins/Gartrell took participants through the essential elements in a key note address on Campaigning to Win and then followed it up with two practical workshops.
An Online to Off-line workshop was conducted by Madeline Holmes from Reville Strategy and AMNF officers worked with IEU Officers in a practical workshop on ‘Taking Charge of the Profession’.
As well, IEU Officers also participated in a series of IEU Officer lead workshops on Reconciliation in Practice; Organising First Nation workers, Negotiation Tactics and Skills for Organisers, and Organising in Hostile Sites.
Climate Change is a reality and the only acceptable debate is how we deal with the consequences.
The IEU supports the Australian school students in their international strike held on September 20. The campaign is increasing in momentum and is becoming harder for the government to ignore.
IEU stands in solidarity with the students and actively supports their campaign and democratic right to protest. We commend the students for taking the lead in this cause.
The IEU condemns the Morrison Government for its continued lack of meaningful action on climate change and the impact on the lives, not only of Australians, but of our Pacific Islander (COPE) colleagues.
Education International – World Congress
1400 educators gathered in Bangkok in July for the 8th Education International World Congress and were challenged to take the lead in advancing the profession, promoting democracy, human and trade union rights and quality education for all.
Congress addressed the key challenge of union renewal, organising and mobilising young members in the work of unions in defining education policy to support the Sustainable Development Goal 4. It also endorsed resolutions condemning racism and protecting the rights of refugee and asylum seekers, securing rights for women and girls and LGBTI.
Climate change was also a priority for the EI Congress, and the focus was for climate justice to have an education face and a teacher’s voice in every area of the world.
Congress resolved that education is a powerful tool for raising awareness about the global climate emergency and bringing up new generations of informed and responsible citizens.
Congress also discussed the threat democracy was facing across the world due to aggressive nationalism being on the rise. Disinformation was identified as a weapon and division sown for private benefit. Despite alienation and pessimism, the need for facts is clearer than ever before. Congress called upon teachers and education professionals to stand up and call out the lies and present their students with the facts
In a historic move, the Education International (EI) 8th Congress carried a resolution modifying the constitution that greatly promotes gender balance in terms of representation within their own global union. As a result, open seats for election have increased to 10 from 9 with 50% of those seats designated for women. This means the Executive Board seats will increase to 27 from 26.
For more information on Education International: www.ei-ie.org.au
Education International Celebrates World Education Support Staff Day
Historically underrepresented and undervalued, support staff are essential to the functioning of the education system and critical members of the union movement.
In recognition of the critical importance of their role, Education International declared 16 May to be the inaugural worldwide Education Support Personnel Day – highlighting their experience, professionalism and the importance of their role.
The global launch announcement for the day was made in Brussels, Belgium at the first conference on Education Support Personnel, attended by around 60 education staff from across 36 countries. At the conclusion of the Belgium Education International Conference, participants adopted the Declaration on the rights and status of Education Support Personnel which among other points affirms that “ESP are important for educating the ‘whole student’ – their contributions ensure that students’ academic, socio-emotional and practical needs are met, fostering equitable and inclusive education systems”.
IEU Branches joined with international education unions to mark the day and highlight that education support staff are an essential part of the education community and have an essential place in the education movement and our unions.
Fiji Police Attack Union Members on May Day
The IEU condemns the outrageous actions of the Fiji Police in intimidating workers from a peaceful protest.
On International May Day this year, Fijian union members rallied outside the Water Authority Depot, in support of sacked water department workers.
Police arrived to inform the group that they could not gather without a permit. Consequently, the protest group moved to the Fiji Trade Union Congress grounds and were joined by other union members.
Police then entered onto the Fiji Trade Union Congress private grounds and disrupted the rally, removed the rally tent, and detained various union officials and water department workers.
Fijian Teachers Association General Secretary Paula Manumanunitoga, Fiji Nursing Association General Secretary Salanieta Matiavi and Fiji Trades Union Congress official, Shiu Lingam and Fiji Trade Union Congress National Secretary were detained for questioning by the police.
Intimidation Will Not Be Tolerated
The freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are cornerstones of a democratic society. The Fiji 2013 Constitution, which was fought for by union members, gives Fiji citizens the right to assemble. These rights and freedoms have been denied and the intimidation of workers and their union representatives is an attack on all unions globally. For this to occur on International May Day – the day where workers acknowledge their rights – is absolutely outrageous.
The IEU expressed outrage at the detention of the Trade Union Congress National Secretary, Mr Felix Anthony and sought immediate discussions with the Australian Council of Unions on these matters. The IEU joined with the ACTU and other unions and calls upon the Fijian government to cease harassment and release Felix Anthony National Secretary of Fiji Trade Union Congress from detention.
 The Dimensions of Insecure Work: A Factbook – Centre for Future Work https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/theausinstitute/pages/2807/attachments/original/1528337971/Insecure_Work_Factbook.pdf?1528337971
 Andrew Stewart, Jim Stanford and Tess Hardy ‘The Wages Crisis in Australia’, University of Adelaide, p 6, 2019.
 Wage price index Jun 2019 ABS
 Characteristics of Employment, Australia, August 2018
 Workplace Gender Equality Agency 2018
 Not So Super For Women, Australian Services Union 2017