Pay Rises for Support and Administrative Staff in NSW Primary Schools and Pre-Schools

The Agreement

The NSW Public Service Association (PSA) has reached an agreement with the Department of Education to settle its landmark Equal Pay Case in the Industrial Relations Commission, with all school administrative and support (SAS) staff in public primary schools and pre-schools set to receive substantial pay increases.

The agreement seeks to address gender-based undervaluation of SAS staff and includes cumulative pay rises ranging from 19% to 35.8% for these staff over three years from 1 July 2019.

These pay rises are significant when considered in the context of the current environment of modest wage increases for NSW public servants (2.5%). The settlement has been described by the PSA general secretary, Stewart Little, as an “historic win” for the SAS workforce which comprises approximately 94% women.

The settlement package contains six main features:

  • pay increases for all adult School Administrative Managers (SAM), Aboriginal Education Officers (AEO), School Administration Officers (SAO) and School Learning Support Officers (SLSO);
  • changes to employee classification structures;
  • new classification descriptions and statements of duty;
  • revised recruitment and appointment procedures;
  • changes to ordinary and additional hours; and
  • incorporation of general public sector conditions.

The changes are predicted to affect over 17,500 SAS school and pre-school staff in New South Wales and improve outcomes for the 824,000 students in the NSW public school system.

Pay will be immediately increased by at least 13.8% for all public school SAS staff and will include backpay from 1 July 2019. There will be two further increases in 2020 and 2021, resulting in at least a 19% increase in hourly wages for all public school SAS staff over three years.

Pre-school SLSOs, who have been the lowest paid SLSO staff for many years, will receive a 29.9% increase in 2019 and up to 35.8% increases over the next three years to bring them in line with other SLSOs.

Existing Junior SLSO award rates (currently $17.67 per hour) will be increased immediately by 63.8% and up to 71.3% over the next three years. In addition to increases in base wages, allowances for first aid, health support and administration of medication will also be increased by up to 20%.

For permanent and long term temporary full-time employees, examples of the current hourly award rates and immediate increases effective 1 July 2019 are set out below:

SAS classification Current IRC hourly award rate Amount increased per hour Number of hours worked per week Extra income per week Extra income per year
SAM Level 4 $34.96 $5.19 33 hours 20 minutes $172.98 $9,025.85
SAM Level 3 $33.96 $5.03 33 hours 20 minutes $167.65 $8,747.73
AEO Year 4 $33.03 $4.90 31 hours 15 minutes $153.13 $7,990.10
SAO $27.77 $4.12 31 hours 15 minutes $128.75 $6,717.99
SLSO Year 4 $29.53 $4.38 31 hours 15 minutes $136.88 $7,142.20
SLSO (Pre School) Year 4 $25.88 $8.32 31 hours 15 minutes $260.00 $13,566.43

 

There are two significant changes to the classification of roles, being the introduction of a new SLSO (Student Health Support) and two new Business Manager (BM) classifications which are intended to provide SAMs with greater scope for career progression. The former will translate to those performing health care procedures receiving higher base wages. The latter will bring Business Managers within SAS Staff Award Conditions and will include pay rates of up to 29.9% above the current SAM Level 4 rate. BM will have up to an extra four to six weeks’ leave per year on the basis that their annual salary is reduced by the equivalent of 2.85 weeks’ pay.

The settlement includes new, modernised statements of duties to reflect the current requirements of each role, giving greater recognition of the nature, level and skills required.

New recruitment and appointment procedures will also be developed in consultation with the PSA.

The bandwidth of ordinary and additional hours for all classifications of SAS staff will be extended, while the normal number of hours of work per week for each classification will be retained. The new SAS award will continue to incorporate general public sector conditions such as travelling compensation and private motor vehicle allowances.

The agreement has been presented to union members for their approval and the matter will return to the Industrial Relations Commission to be finalised on 13 September 2019.

 

An Advance for Pay Equality

Egan Associates commend the NSW Department of Education in reaching agreement with the Public Service Association in respect of appropriate remuneration for support and administrative staff across primary schools and preschools in NSW.

If the initiative and the agreement as stated addresses what may have been considered as a sector work value bias, the initiative and agreement appears to have incorporated appropriate and relevant workforce considerations including changes to the classification structures which apply, enhancement and adoption of contemporary statements of duty, revised recruitment and appointment procedures, changes to hours and incorporation of general public sector conditions.

If the negotiations led to an awareness of bias, either related to the nature of work and the contemporary skill sets required of support and administrative staff in the primary school and preschool sector within the NSW government, this is a positive outcome.

If statements of duty have been contemporarised to reflect emerging demands on incumbents of all roles with greater clarity and recognition of the level of skill required, this is further recognition that pay equality would be a derivative of work value in an environment which has been traditionally considered to have gender bias. We make these observations without having an intimate understanding of  these negotiations.

The principles which appear to have been applied represent a maturing of the foundation for pay equality.  There has been an implicit recognition of changing work demands, changing requirements in relation to experience and skill and changing demands on those working in the primary and preschool sectors.  This segment of the community is carrying increasing accountability for preparing young people for secondary school and tertiary training and education to equip them for a future role in a rapidly changing employment environment across almost all sectors.

While the cost burden will be substantially met by tax payers, it is hoped that the restated accountabilities and skill levels will lead to enhanced productivity and employee effectiveness in the stewardship of the school environment in nurturing our youngest community members in the formative stages of their learning.