Lid needs lifting on wage restriction

Overturning the NSW Government’s salary cap is a key priority for Federation during 2019.

This cap, originally introduced by the former Labor government, was embedded in the Industrial Relations Act and Industrial Relations (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Regulation, by the Coalition in 2011.

This unfair legislation places a strict requirement on the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to apply the NSW Government’s state wages policy to all new Awards or variation to existing Awards.

The 2.5 per cent salary cap applies to all employee-related costs including: salary; wages; allowances and other remuneration; and superannuation and other personal employment benefits.

As such, teachers and other public sector employees cannot achieve salary increases beyond 2.5 per cent per annum without additional “employee-related cost savings”. Employee-related cost savings consist of trade-offs to conditions such as reductions in leave entitlements or increased class sizes. Federation remains steadfastly opposed to using trade-offs to achieve higher salaries.

The nature of work being performed by teachers in NSW schools, TAFE and other settings is becoming more complex and the needs of students increasingly multifaceted.

This has led to more responsibilities being placed on teachers, along with an expectation they develop additional knowledge and skills to do their work. In the past, significant increases in salaries have been awarded by the IRC in acknowledgement of increasing complexity of work being performed by teachers.

However, under the current unfair legislation, there is no scope for the changing nature of work being performed by teachers to be taken into account in salary negotiations.

Since coming under the Fair Work Act, TAFE has suffered the worst of both state and federal restrictions in bargaining. The approach taken by TAFE when bargaining under the Fair Work Act has strictly followed the NSW Government’s state wages policy. TAFE has demonstrated an unwillingness to take into account the increasingly complex nature of teachers’ work, when bargaining around enterprise agreements.

In order to attract and retain highly qualified teachers, it is essential they are paid salaries comparable to other professions. It is inherently unfair that teachers are unable to seek salary increases that meaningfully reflect the nature of work they are performing every day.

To date, neither the Government nor the Opposition has indicated it is willing to make amendments to legislation to redress this issue. Federation will continue to pursue this matter with both parties in the lead up to the state election and beyond.