PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENT: Public School Teacher Pay Equity

I call on the Government to address the New South Wales public school teachers' salary inconsistencies, which are undermining the recruitment and retention of our most experienced and dedicated educators.

I have had so many representations from teachers in my electorate on this issue.

It is concerning to me, to teachers and to my community that public school teachers who were first employed in 2014 and 2015 are financially disadvantaged compared with teachers employed after 1 January 2016.

This disparity has arisen through the replacement of the Crown Employees (Teachers in Schools and Related Employees) Salaries and Conditions Award. The award moved salary determination from the old step-based pay scale across to the new band or standards-based remuneration scale.

The wage discrepancy that has come to light since the 2014 award negotiations is an unfortunate and unintended result of that process.

In plain terms, a teacher who started in 2013 or 2014 would have earned about $44,000 less than those employed after January 2016. The disparity favours the more recent and less experienced graduates.

It is not a reflection of teaching standards, it does not indicate the accreditation of the 2016 cohort of teachers and it is not a consequence of standards-based pay. It is the unfortunate and unintended result of a changing system.

On that basis, I call on the Government and encourage the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning to take a leaf from the Catholic education system's book. Its teachers were in the same boat as our public school teachers, but it found ways to set things right.

In contrast, the New South Wales Government's response to date has been to promise our teachers that no‑one will go backwards as a result of this new structure. It does this while acknowledging that it is possible for a new teacher operating under the new award structure to reach a higher salary during a shorter period of time.

The teachers affected definitely feel that they are going backwards.

We hear a lot about the importance of values in our public school system. Our public schools need to be places where fairness and equity are core values. Just as students and families deserve equity in access to quality education, our teachers deserve just remuneration for the tremendous work they do.

As it stands, the situation is clearly unjust. It is deeply affecting morale among some of our more experienced teachers, some of whom are actively mentoring and providing guidance and support to those whose pay packets outstrip their own. They are being underpaid compared with their colleagues who have the same qualifications and less experience.

How can this be anything other than "going backwards", as they watch their colleagues go ever further ahead?

This issue has given rise to significant frustration and were it not for our teachers' utmost professionalism it would risk undermining collaborative professional relationships.

I have held a number of meetings with teachers in my electorate and I know they have raised this problem with the Government. They are deeply disappointed that the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government has not yet stepped up to address the matter. If it were an unintended consequence, the Government should have acted to fix it before now.

I note that the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning has assured teachers that the Government will address the issue, but there is no clear pathway on how it will do so.

The NSW Teachers Federation has estimated that it would cost the Government between $25 million and $27 million to fix these transitional anomalies.

Moving forward, I ask the Government to consider that.

In 2017 the Catholic education system's resolution to this issue was to amend its agreement to allow for teachers who began teaching in 2014 or 2015 to progress directly to the standards-based remuneration system.

The new agreement guarantees that teachers who started before 2014 will be no worse off than they would have been on previous agreements and ensures that teachers are paid at a highly accomplished rate in the first pay period following the appropriate level of accreditation.

Under these changes, for teachers who started working in 2014 or 2015, there is a period of six years where they would be thousands of dollars better off each year teaching in a Catholic school.

That is a disgrace. It creates a very real incentive for a public school teachers who gain a higher level of teacher accreditation before completing the Department of Education's service requirement to seek employment outside the public sector.

Teachers' workloads are increasing and they are working in classrooms that are often poorly maintained, cramped and do not have air conditioning. Last week we learnt that they are even working in schools that have friable asbestos in the buildings. Teachers who are educating our diverse community of students with special needs are under-resourced. Why would they stay?

I ask the House: In which other public sector role would it be acceptable for an equally credentialed but more experienced employee to earn less than a junior colleague?

I believe the answer is none.

I support New South Wales teachers in their efforts to have this situation rectified and I call on the Government to put things right.

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