It is fair to say this is not the start of the school and TAFE year that we were hoping for. Bushfires, cyclones and a full lockdown were not on our wish-list.
That said, adversity brings out the best in many people and we have seen that throughout this week. Members have responded admirably to these demanding circumstances.
Thank you to all our members, including leaders, who found themselves working on Sunday to get the required messages out to their staff and school communities. Department staff across both schools and TAFEs also deserve credit for what were admirable efforts in responding quickly to an unexpected situation.
Let us all hope the lockdown brings the desired result quickly and efficiently.
We are attempting to answer a few frequently asked questions about the current situation below and will continue to keep you informed if the situation changes.
In other areas of our work, there was some good news this week. The SSTUWA has put forward a comprehensive plan to all parties ahead of the state election.
This has borne immediate results. Both Labor and the Liberals have pledged funding for 100 new school psychologist positions, if elected. Labor has also promised an expansion of Alternative Learning Settings and expanding the Respectful Relationships program.
The Liberals have also promised extensive investment in Early Childhood Education.
All of these are encouraging signs that the SSTUWA’s campaign to ensure public education is a priority for the state’s political parties is having a strong influence on policy-making. You can find more details at www.puttingourkidsfirst.com.au
Pat Byrne, President
Workplace arrangements during lockdown
The following is taken from the Public Sector Labor Relations Circular 2/2021 – Short-term workforce arrangements for week of 1 February 2021:
Workforce arrangements during the lockdown period 1. Public sector employees whose work is essential as defined in the Stay at Home Directions will be directed to attend work as usual, unless there are extenuating circumstances and alternative arrangements are entered into with the employer. 2. Public sector employees whose work is defined as non-essential will be directed to work from home. 3. Some public sector employees whose work is defined as non-essential will be unable to work from home at all, or unable to work their regular hours while at home. This may be for various reasons including the nature of the work, inability to access technology or appropriate equipment or the need to supervise children. 4. To support employees during the lockdown period, public sector employers are to pay all employees the amount they would otherwise have entitled to be paid (including allowances and penalties). The amount is to be calculated:
for permanent employees, according to their anticipated working hours for the lockdown period;
for fixed term contract employees, according to their contracted hours for the lockdown period; and
for casual employees, according to their rostered hours for the lockdown period.
5. Public sector employees are not required to access any form of leave, including COVID-19 leave, to cover absences from work during the lockdown period, except as provided in clause 6 below. 6. Public sector employees already on leave, or with leave approved to commence during the lockdown period, are to remain or proceed on that leave unless the employer agrees to reverse the leave booking. There should be no expectation that extended leave will be reversed unless there are convincing operational reasons. 7. These arrangements cease to apply at the end of the lockdown period.
The State Government will be revisiting planned scenarios in the event of extended or future lockdowns to determine what leave arrangements may be appropriate to implement.
The full advice can be found here under 2021 Resources.
Updated advice from the Department of Education can also be accessed from that link.
Union office in lockdown
Lockdown requirements means the SSTUWA office is running a skeleton staff. Please email us regarding urgent workplace issues rather than calling and we will endeavour to respond as soon as possible. Thank you to the union staff for the efforts this week to ensure members are kept informed and supported all over our state.
Impact of bushfires
Our thoughts are with members, students and other staff who have been affected by the bushfires. It is understood that staff at many schools have had homes damaged or destroyed. The SSTUWA will look at ways it can assist those members during these challenging times.
The Director General of the DoE has written to all staff to remind them that if you’re in the affected areas and want to talk to someone, you can call the Employee Assistance Program – PeopleSense on 1300 307 912. If you are unsure of who to contact for support, please call your local Regional Office for advice.
State Council elections
The SSTUWA has received verbal advice that this year's State Council elections will not be conducted by the Australian Election Council.
Instead all current delegates will retain their positions as State Council delegates. The SSTUWA is awaiting formal written confirmation from the AEC and will update all delegates by email and all members via eNews as soon as possible.