Editorial: Taking stock of government

Six months after the election of the Palaszczuk government, it is worthwhile taking stock of the changes that have occurred.

  • Requirements for implementation of phase 2 of the Australian Curriculum have been removed in response to a QTU request. The ongoing implementation had significant workload implications for teachers, particularly in primary schools, and in circumstances where the curriculum itself was being reviewed and there was no decision about its final form. Consequently, the directive that members voted on last year when the LNP government did not respond adequately to a similar request has now been lifted. The Union has established a process whereby specialist teachers in phase 2 subject areas can choose to start to implement new curriculum, having regard to their workload.
  • There is in-principle agreement to a 10-month continuation of the current enterprise bargaining agreement up to 30 June 2016. Final discussion is required concerning the quantum of salary increase that accompanies the continuation. Hopefully, by the time this Journal reaches schools, a Newsflash will have arrived announcing a final agreement. The continuation was requested because the Industrial Relations Act still requires a modernised award before bargaining can occur. Even if bargaining was permissible, it would still occur according to the previous government's unfair processes, under which teachers were facing a wage freeze and having conditions stripped away. That will now not be the case.
  • An evaluation of the Independent Public School (IPS) scheme has been conducted, with Union involvement, to address the two-tier system of state schooling that the QTU and many members observed developing. This was starting to have an impact on, among other things, transfers and relocations, as well as perceptions of schools. It is essential that public education is maintained as a system. The Union’s request for an evaluation of IPS was predicated on extending appropriate independence to all schools, while maintaining elements, such as the transfer and relocation policies, that are essential to functioning of the system. A final government decision is awaited.
  • The first changes to industrial relations legislation have been made, removing LNP laws that invalidated provisions of existing awards and agreements, and fundamentally changing the award modernisation process from a process of stripping conditions to a genuine process of modernisation. The Minister has issued a new award modernisation request to the Industrial Relations Commission that will provide a fair basis for negotiation and the establishment of up-to-date awards, while maintaining conditions won over 20 or more years.
  • In TAFE, legislation has passed through Parliament repealing the Queensland Training Assets Management Authority legislation, which made TAFE facilities available to for-profit private providers in competition with the TAFE system.
  • The QTU has also been involved in discussions with the department about the implementation of the government’s election promises, particularly an additional 45 guidance officers and 875 teachers above those required for enrolment increases over three years and the development of a process to recognise and reward highly accomplished and lead teacher categories within the Australian Professional Standards.

There is further work in progress.

  • The QTU has sought a pay increase for TAFE teachers who, as at 1 July, had been without a pay increase for two years while the LNP government attempted to strip back their working conditions and denied them arbitration of their last round of enterprise bargaining.
  • The QTU has also asked for changes to the way in which Gonski (GRG) funding is allocated to schools, so that it better reflects the architecture proposed by the Gonski review, i.e. a school resource standard with loadings for each of the six factors of disadvantage. Existing allocations do not properly reflect this needs-based funding and the lack of certainty leaves schools unable to commit to programs and permanent employment for those employed.
  • A fundamental review of industrial legislation will occur during the remainder of 2015, with the establishment of fair legislation when teachers next come to bargain in 2016.
  • A review of WorkCover legislation to restore entitlements stripped away by the LNP government is nearing a conclusion and the introduction of amending legislation.

It will take time to undo damage done to the education system and employee rights by the previous government, but work is in progress and the results of the first six months of the Palaszczuk government, working with unions, are positive.

Graham Moloney
General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 120 No 6, 21 August 2015, p5