Executive resolves to re-ballot to postpone stopwork
Thursday 27 January 2022
The AEU Branch Executive met late afternoon on Thursday 27 January to consider progress in negotiations regarding the start of the 2022 preschool and school year, and resolved to conduct a state-wide ballot of members to “postpone industrial action until further notice, pending continued constructive negotiations with DfE and the Government, with the ballot closing 5 pm on Friday 28 January.
In reaching this decision, Executive condemned the Premier for his failure to genuinely consult education professionals, but acknowledged an overall improvement in the DfE’s response to improve health and safety for students and staff in an Omicron environment, noting that some matters are yet to be resolved, and DfE has committed to ongoing meetings with the AEU to resolve arrangements for vulnerable workers and leave provisions and other operational details.
What’s been gained since the threat of strike action?
- 100 air purifiers strategically deployed (e.g. Port Pirie due to lead dust) plus additional 3000 air purifiers ordered, for a total of 4050.
- Site works ongoing to enable increased ventilation, no hold up regarding funding or site works usual procurement processes.
- Commitment to develop clear definition of ‘vulnerable’.
- Commitment to review leave and flexible work arrangements.
- Stronger wording regarding sites ‘must’ with regard to organisational requirements.
- Letter to parents and further communications being developed for parents with clear expectations regarding children not attending when unwell, mask use etc.
- No employee required to work if unwell.
- Sites to review their COVID safety plan in line with DfE advice – including staff input/feedback.
- Clear guidelines regarding Close Contact (classroom contact) and isolation requirements.
- Helpline in place to provide advice to employees.
- Two additional planning days (Monday and Tuesday, Week 1) with no requirement to provide educational programs.
- Additional support for Early Childhood/Junior Primary, and Years 7,8 and 12.
- RATs for preschools and a surveillance testing trial for Special Schools and Units.
- RATs to be supplied to all sites.
- RATs trialled for ‘test to stay’ in special settings and discussions continue re extending this trial to other vulnerable cohorts.
- Staff not to administer RATs for children/students.
- Development of a list of teachers’ and leaders’ tasks to be forgiven to assist with workload demands - being developed with AEU input.
- TRTs engaged on contract in regions/hubs to assist with staff shortages.
- SSOs to be provided with additional hours to undertake additional work and classifications reflect expectations/roles.
- Protective screens in public-facing areas for support staff protection.
- Provision of N95 masks to sites.
Additional commitments were made as Executive prepared to meet:
- Where an employee is required to isolate or quarantine and working from home is not possible, employees can access COVID special leave with pay.
- Regarding the need to utilise sick leave when contracting COVID, on a case-by-case basis, the Department is open to discussing individual circumstances where employees don’t have remaining sick leave.
- Where required, schools will be supported to bring in additional staff to supervise students accessing online programs from school.
- Where students are required to wear masks, the Department will continue to reinforce these expectations with parents/carers. In circumstances where sites are facing difficulties, Education Directors are the point of escalation and available to assist, including accessing central teams as necessary.
- There was also commitment to continue working on arrangements for vulnerable workers, as will options for TRTs.
- Written agreement to follow Australian Health definition of "vulnerable".
- Clarity regarding hybrid teaching - supervision while teaching online, composite classes, etc.
- Clarity regarding additional leave arrangements.
- Operational plan and answers to specific operational questions.
- Site ability to enforce COVID safe measures e.g. sick kids at school/preschool, mask use.
It is a fact that there is nothing that can be done to totally protect education workers and students against COVID. This is the nature of the work we do.
Thanks to the leverage gained by a strong member support, AEU has gained further improvements in student and staff health and safety in an Omicron environment.
Ultimately, the Premier’s intransigence to push back the start of the school year by two weeks has created a situation where many of the issues raised by members have not been resolved because of the short timelines.
The reality will be that many of the unresolved issues will have to be addressed at the local level.
Regardless of strike action, the AEU will be there to support members’ ongoing health, safety and industrial issues as they arise. Advice for members will be published to support members, sub-branch secretaries and workplace reps regarding work health safety and industrial strategies.