Department's policies don't add up for women

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Media spotlight on unfair leave policy

Progress towards gender equality in public education is no longer a priority of the Department, Women’s Co-ordinator Anna Uren told Annual Conference on July 4.

Recent Departmental proposals work actively against women teachers, she said, and as the Department was unresponsive to Federation’s attempts to negotiate on these policies the union was considering taking action in the Industrial Relations Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Board and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Only 13 per cent of teachers posts taking maternity leave in the past five years were temporary teachers, despite making up a greater proportion of the teaching service, Ms Uren said. 

A major reason for this was that temporary teachers who become pregnant generally had their engagement run out during pregnancy.

The Department’s “Interim Salary Review Policy”, given to Federation in May removes recognition of child rearing and contains salary penalties for teachers with broken career patterns — both more likely to affect women, Ms Uren said.

She pointed to a clause that would knock any teacher who has a five-year break in teaching back to the beginning of the salary scale with those teachers ineligible to apply for a salary review, saying most teachers in this bracket would be those on maternity leave.

The Department had stated defensively that only women who have three children successively while staying away from work would face disadvantage.

Worse, within the past fortnight, the Department proposed “simplification” of a number of leave determinations, including maternity, adoption and parental leave according to which any teacher who takes more than 14 weeks of maternity leave was likely to be worse off in terms of salary, leave accrual, or both.

“Somehow the Department keeps a straight face while saying that this is not an attack on the pay and conditions of women,” Ms Uren said.

She put up two case studies to demonstrate the blows to be suffered by women teachers.

“[One teacher,] Worst Case, is at the top of the salary scale before [having] three children, taking five years full-time maternity leave. She does no casual work in this time, so her accreditation lapses. She then returns to work on a load of 0.4 for three years …“What’s going to happen to her under the Department’s attempted policy changes?

“In today’s dollars, she’s going to lose more than $119 000. It will also cost her more than $11 000 in super contributions, much more by the time she retires. She will have to work her way through the salary bands all over again before being eligible to apply for highly accomplished. That is at least 13 years later than a teacher who did not take maternity leave. And she will lose 63 days accrued sick leave and 18 days accrued FACS leave.”

Ms Uren offered another scenario, featuring Worst Case’s sister, Average, based on Departmental statistics.

“Well, even this teacher is set to lose, in today’s dollars, more than $48 000 in salary and around $4500 in super contributions. She won’t be eligible to apply for highly accomplished until at least four years later than a teacher who did not take maternity leave. She loses 22 days’ sick leave and 5.5 days FACS leave.

“And the Department is arguing that having children is not disadvantaging these women?” Ms Uren said.
Ms Uren told members she was glad that the change to the maximum length of a temporary engagement negotiated by the Federation as part of the new Staffing Agreement will create an extra layer of protection for temps.

Women’s representation in promotions positions had grown, slightly faster than across the whole teaching service.
Within Federation, women’s representation on Executive had increased this year, with eight of the 15 positions elected by Council and nine of the total 18 positions being held by women.
The percentage of women in Councillor positions (57 per cent) and Annual Conference Delegate positions (64 per cent) has increased in the 12 months to April 30 this year.

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