EARLY CHILDHOOD SECTOR
NEWSLETTER SUPPLEMENT TO THE AEU NEWS • NOVEMBER 2011
The ABC of your next agreement
We need your views as we prepare to negotiate new agreements for early childhood teachers and assistants. This is your chance to shape your terms and conditions. Shayne Quinn and Martel Menz vice president and deputy VP, early childhood
HEREVER they work — preschools, long day care, or elsewhere — early childhood teachers and assistants think of themselves as one. One group with one goal, delivering a quality education to children and their families. One right to recognition and reward for the valuable work you do. But our industrial system does not see it this way. It reflects the way you are employed, with a host of agreements and awards regulating your pay and conditions. The two major agreements are VECTAA, the Victorian Early Childhood Teachers and Assistants Agreement 2009 for community-run preschools, and LGECEEA, the Local Government Early Childhood Education Employees Agreement 2009. They expire in December 2012 (LGECEEA) and January 2013 (VECTAA). The AEU can begin to negotiate their replacements with Kindergarten Parents Victoria (KPV) and the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) six months prior to expiry. To prepare for this we must develop a log of claims — a list of changes to wages and conditions that the AEU will present on behalf of its members to the employers as a first step in negotiations. Despite the different agreements, our logs will reflect the “oneness” with which we see ourselves. Employers, through their representative bodies, will present the AEU with a log of claims too — their list of claims relating to your wages and conditions and how they see them impacting on or facilitating the operation of the service.
What part can you play? We are looking for members’ feedback to develop this log of claims as ultimately these agreements will define your working conditions. These negotiations come at an important time as we face the many opportunities and challenges of the early childhood reform agenda. There are a number of ways you can be involved. Attend a meeting in your region. Dates and venues are online at www.aeuvic.asn.au/EC_log. Send us your ideas for the log using our online template at www.aeuvic.asn.au/lighten. Join AEU Early Childhood Council or attend as an observer. Our councillors are your voice through this process. They will consider and endorse the log of claims, discuss negotiations as they unfold, and eventually endorse the new agreements ahead of a sector-wide vote. More information about council can be found at www.aeuvic.asn.au/EC_council.
What goes in an agreement? An industrial agreement can cover a range of matters related to your day-to-day work. The Fair Work Act sets the rules for what can and can’t be included. Our agreements interrelate with other documents including the Act and regulations, funding criteria and policy documents of the day such as the National Quality Framework. For example, state regulations determine staff/child ratios. Our agreements cannot alter or undermine these 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 cannot alter this, but they can set rules around working hours such as teaching and non-teaching time, meal breaks and length of day. It is important to understand how these various documents fit together and what we can deal with in negotiations. What if we’re not covered? Some local authorities, a very few community preschools and the majority of childcare centres, early intervention and other services are not covered by VECTAA or LGECEEA. However, in line with our principle of “oneness”, VECTAA and LGECEEA set the benchmark for our negotiations with all other employers. So members not directly covered by the agreements should still contribute to the log of claims, because the benchmarks we establish in these agreements will still affect you. ◆ Continued on page 4
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National regulations —
With the National Regulations for Early Childhood coming into force on January 1, members nee and how to model best practice. Martel Menz outlines what the regulations mean for you. Transitioning to the new system Existing licensees, services, representatives, and primary and approved nominees will transition to the new system. No application process is required; however the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development may require some additional information. Primary nominees will now be known as “nominated supervisors” while approved nominees become “certified supervisors”. Accepted nominees also become “certified supervisors” — but not automatically. They must complete the “fit-and-proper” assessment under current Victorian law before December 31; or complete the approval process under the national law after December 31. That is why many of you have been advised to apply for approved nominee status before the end of this year. DEECD has advised licensees that “any application submitted under the Victorian law (for example licence applications and determination of fit and proper person applications) that remains incomplete at the commencement of the National Law will also transition.” This means that those who elect the first option will transition to certified supervisor. Those who elect to apply for approval under the national law will require a current Working with Children Check but not a criminal history record check. The application for approval attracts a fee but is less than the cost of a criminal history check. Licensees have been advised further that under the national law: … all services must have a nominated supervisor. A service must not operate unless there is a nominated supervisor for that service. Therefore services without a current primary nominee are advised to nominate a primary nominee under the Victorian Law prior to 1 January 2012. This may explain why some of you have been approached to apply for primary nominee status. A supervisor certificate is not attached to a service — it moves with the person, and is valid across Australia. Any registered teacher or holder of a current Working With Children Check will be considered fit and proper to provide education and care, in recognition that they have already undergone an equivalent fit-andproper assessment under the former state law (see Parts 2 and 4 of the Act). ◆
Minimum staffing requirement The current requirement for at least two staff members to be present at all times will be removed, provided that staff/child ratios (regulation 123) and all requirements of the national Act are met, including adequate supervision (section 165) and protection of children from harm and hazards (section 167). This is a significantly retrograde step that presents a number of potential issues including occupational health and safety for staff and the wellbeing and safety of children. Operating a service with fewer than the current minimum staff places individual employees and children in a vulnerable situation. Services with small enrolments or attendances could potentially elect to run those programs with only one staff member. Apart from the impact on employees who could be made redundant (as some services reliant on parents’ fees may contemplate), this would affect the remaining staff, children and program. Staff will face health and safety issues such as working alone in isolated buildings, lifting equipment alone, stress, and workload; duty of care challenges; and increased vulnerability to allegations when working alone with children. Programs would see a reduction or change to staff/child interactions and lose the capacity for diversity in program structure or activities. Members are advised to look at service policies which provide greater direction about staffing levels and OH&S. If your employer seeks to reduce staffing levels, contact the AEU Membership Services Unit immediately on (03) 9417 2822 and seek specific advice and support. ◆
Early Childhood newsletter | november 2011
Three-year qualified teachers Teachers with a three-year qualification will continue to be recognised under the new regulations (reg 241). This issue has caused much anxiety in recent years, but such teachers can rest assured that any qualification recognised under the former law, or recognised for the purposes of a preschool funding program will be considered to meet the early childhood teaching qualifications under the national law. The law also recognises all qualifications that have been gazetted in Victoria. The list of approved training and qualifications can be downloaded at tinyurl.com/ cwk4zoz (PDF). The department has confirmed that there is: … no requirement in the National Regulations requiring the early childhood teacher to be currently employed. The approach is that those qualifications currently recognised under the former education and care services law or recognised for preschool funding are recognised under the National Law. Simply put, this regulation applies whether a teacher is employed or otherwise. A three-year qualified teacher can be on leave or not working in the sector and still be recognised upon return. ◆
First aid All staff are currently required to have first aid, asthma and anaphylaxis training (where a child is enrolled). Under the national regulations, only one member of staff on duty at any time will be required to have this training (regulation 136). Again, this raises issues of staff vulnerability and standards for children’s safety and wellbeing. What happens if more than one child at a time requires medical treatment? What happens if the trained first-aider is away? What happens if the trained first-aider themselves requires medical attention? Our advice is to maintain the current requirement that all staff have first-aid training. ◆
— what’s changed?
ed to familiarise themselves with key changes, their likely impact on the ground Assistants and minimum qualifications
Regulation 240 provides that until December 31, 2015 an educator (in this case an assistant) can be included in the educator/child ratio “without having, or actively working towards, a Certificate III level education and care qualification” if they have been “continuously employed as an educator in an education and care service for a period of at least 15 years up to and immediately before the scheme commencement day; and is employed by the same approved provider as the educator was employed by immediately before the scheme commencement day”. The “scheme commencement day” is January 1, 2012. This means that an assistant who has been employed for at least 15 years in an education and care service; who is employed on January 1, 2012 by the same employer as on December 31, 2011; and who was eligible to be grandfathered but did not complete the requirements for this within the designated period has until December 31, 2015 to complete the Certificate III in Children’s Services. This extends from January 1, 2014 the period that they can work for the same employer without completing the minimum qualification requirements, giving a further two years during which they can attain the minimum qualification required by Regulation 126(1)(b). Notwithstanding this longer timeline, the AEU recognises the wealth of knowledge and experience these assistants hold, and encourages them to undertake the study necessary to their retention in the sector. Educators who complete an approved professional development course by December 31, 2011 in lieu of the minimum training requirements are not required to obtain a Cert III. ◆
The National Quality Framework allows a service to apply for a waiver from a requirement of the national law or national regulations. These waivers may be temporary or ongoing. Services operating under an exemption before January 1 may continue to operate under these arrangements until March 31, 2012. They will then be required to apply for a waiver if they are unable to meet a requirement of the national law or regulations. One common exemption covers the qualified staff member lunch break. Services operating under this exemption have until March 31 to apply for a waiver if they require it to continue. Information about lunch breaks in the context of the regulations can be found in the Guide to the National Law and National Regulations posted on the ACECQA website. The AEU will provide a specific advice sheet to members on this issue, given the significant impact of the approach that regulatory authorities have taken over this issue. It is important to remember that your entitlement to meal breaks under VECTAA, LGECEEA or other relevant agreement or award must not be overridden by the provisions in the regulations. Both must be complied with. Key resources, including the Act, the regulations and the guide can be found at the ACECQA website: acecqa.gov.au/home. ◆
AEU meets GoodStart Martel Menz deputy vice president, early childhood
N OUR endeavour to negotiate an enterprise agreement for Victorian teachers employed by GoodStart (formally ABC Childcare), we met Michael Nobelan, general manager of human resources, and employee relations manager Caroline White on November 4. Since serving our log of claims in August, we had been disappointed by the protracted
response from management and a reluctance to begin formal negotiations. In the meantime, however, AEU membership in GoodStart centres has continued to grow strongly, with members supporting the campaign for a fair deal. At our meeting, we discussed how to address the key issues of attraction and retention, namely through better pay and conditions. GoodStart is keenly aware of the looming teacher shortage — 100 centres will need to
employ an early childhood teacher before the regulatory deadline of January 2014. While GoodStart has not committed to formal negotiations, it will formally respond to our log by the end of November and has expressed an eagerness to meet again. The AEU will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our members’ interests are represented through industrial negotiation. ◆
The ABC of your next agreement Putting it in context Agreements are negotiated in the context of a wide range of things, including state Acts, regulations and funding criteria, but also the new national Modern Awards, commonwealth and state policy — and school sector agreements. Modern awards are the base against which each agreement will be tested by Fair Work Australia. The awards are minimalist and do not include many of the provisions which were in the previous awards against which VECTAA and LGECEEA 2009 were tested. For example the Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2010, unlike the previous Early Childhood Teachers Interim Award 1999, does not prescribe teaching or non-teaching time. The modern awards can be found at www.aeuvic.asn.au/EC_pay. Funding allows employers to afford the outcome of negotiations without undue impact on the affordability of services and therefore access — hence the need to persuade government to adequately fund appropriate outcomes for staff and families. Government policies — and their expression through funding criteria, legislation and regulation — set the parameters for negotiations. For example, the Education and Care Services National Regulations require services to employ an early childhood teacher, while funding criteria prescribe the number of hours a preschool program must deliver. The terms and conditions contained in our agreements will impact on the capacity of services to attract and retain teachers to meet these requirements. School sector agreements set the salaries and conditions which remain the benchmark by which we maintain parity with educators in primary schools. What are negotiations? Collective bargaining is a process in which we (as your representatives) and KPV and MAV (as the employers’ bodies) express the goals of our respective members for the nature of the work you do, in the form of salaries, terms and conditions. Though not a party to the agreements, the State Government — via the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development — will also have a view. At times views will be held in common; at other times they will be diametrically opposed. Fair Work Australia requires parties to negotiate in good faith, which means not only meeting the other parties but also giving genuine consideration to their proposals; responding to those proposals in a timely manner; and giving reasons for the responses. Making of an agreement will only occur when the parties reach a position which sufficiently improves the position for their members and advances their objectives; and their members vote the agreement up (as an overwhelming 99% did for VECTAA). Remember: An agreement is made only when a valid majority of employees who would be covered by the agreement vote in favour.
Who’s at the table? Normally there are only two parties to the negotiating process — the employer and employee representatives. However as preschools are a funded program with employers heavily reliant on funding from government, representatives of the DEECD are involved. Their involvement in the current VECTAA and LGECEEA lay principally in developing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the unions, employers’ bodies and government which addressed the key issues of service improvements, productivity improvements, salary and career structure. The AEU, United Voice (which represents some assistants) and employers then negotiated the balance of the agreements independently. With a new state government, we will see whether the MOU process will be repeated or whether we will go directly into negotiations with KPV and MAV. Members are involved from start to finish Steps and timeline
Develop log of claims: Nov 2010 – March 2012
Members (through meetings and submissions), elected member reps on Early Childhood Council and AEU leadership
Serve log of claims: July 2012
Receive, analyse and develop response to employer logs of claims
AEU leadership and EC Council
Clarify and analyse DEECD policy and requirements
AEU leadership and EC Council
Negotiate with employer representatives and DEECD
AEU leadership with input from discussions with EC Council
Verbal reports on negotiations
AEU leadership and EC Council
Campaign, be active as necessary
Members, councillors, AEU leadership and organisers
Endorse agreement in principle
Inform members about proposed agreement and respond to members queries ahead of members’ vote
Consider information about the proposed agreement and ask questions before voting
Assistants: take our on-call survey Assistants are asked to complete the On-Call survey which can be found on the Lighten the Load page of the website, as well as fill in our log of claims form. Go to www.aeuvic.asn.au/lighten. This will give us invaluable information to support our negotiations.
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Early Childhood newsletter | november 2011