PSA Demands Action – temporary staff, workload, violence and your pay rise - Public Service Association

PSA Demands Action – temporary staff, workload, violence and your pay rise

The PSA has written to the Secretary of the Department of Education to demand action on the serious concerns of members.

We have raised these issues with the department, and the NSW Government, numerous times over the last few years with little to no action taken to rectify them. After the hard work of our members keeping schools running, we must take a stand.

Over 50 per cent of SAS Staff are still temporary!

The PSA was recently provided with the most current data on temporary engagements across SAS Staff classifications. The Department of Education’s own data shows that over 50 per cent of SAS Staff are currently in temporary work, with the percentage increasing to over 70% per cent for School Learning Support Officers.

It is an absolute disgrace that the Department of Education continue to rely on temporary employment to support the education of the state’s children and young people. Keeping so many SAS Staff in insecure work, in numerous cases for over 10 years, is unacceptable to the PSA.

Workload, Inadequate Staffing and Shortages

The current staffing formula is woefully inadequate and has not been adjusted for over 20 years. Staffing in all schools, but particularly in Primary Schools, does not meet workload demands. Some Primary Schools now have well over 1500 students with no change to their formula staffing.

Despite assurances by the Department, detail on workforce planning to address this issue, and that of the drastically high levels of temporary SAS Staff, has not been forthcoming.

Covid-19 and the winter flu season have added pressure to a system that is already at breaking point. Over the last few years, the administrative burden placed on our membership has increased significantly and they are facing a workload crisis that needs to be addressed.

New programs, no consultation

The union is aware that despite agreements not to roll out new programs during Term 1 and Term 4 of each school year, major changes are being planned over the next two school terms, such as the implementation of the School Administration and Management Marketplace which has the potential to dramatically impact the workload of members.

On top of this, there was no consultation on the School Administration and Management Marketplace prior to it being announced to staff. Since the PSA placed a ban on interacting with the roll out of the program, industrial staff and delegates have met once with relevant senior staff members from the department. So far there has not been sufficient information provided to resolve the issues raised by members, including –

  • increased workload (researching products, negotiating contracts, training staff in new systems)
  • lack of support from the Department for technical issues or training
  • schools having to select products from up to 12 different providers, making it even harder to find casual staff experienced in all programs and harder for staff to get work at other schools, thus exacerbating the existing staffing crisis
  • the impact on school budgets

Increasing Violence

Throughout Term 3, the Association has received increasing reports of violent students in schools. We raised this directly with senior Industrial Relations staff at the department on 19 September 2022 at the Schools Joint Consultative Committee. The Premier Dominic Perrottet has even announced a global recruitment search for a ‘chief behaviour adviser’.

It is often our members working one on one with students that deal with the most violent incidents and the PSA has members across NSW considering implementing actions under the NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to cease unsafe work with violent students as a last resort to keep themselves from further harm.

Salary Increase – backpay to first full pay period of 1 July 2022

The Department of Education is the only NSW Government Department that did not file an award on 1 July 2022. In all other departments, even if award negotiations were underway, the Department or agency filed an award on 1 July 2022, allowing the Commission to make this as the operative date for the pay increase.

Despite the union’s historic pay equity win in 2019, SAS Staff remain some of the lowest paid workers in the public sector. The gender demographic of the SASS workforce is over 95 per cent women, and you have been denied the full backdating of your pay increase for 2022.

The PSA has called on the department to:

  1. Immediately take steps to rectify the appalling rates of insecure work in the SAS Staff workforce
  2. Review and resolve the workload crisis facing SAS Staff, including ensuring that no new programs or changes are implemented during Term 4 2022 or Term 1 2023
  3. Immediately review the drastic understaffing of schools by amending the staffing formula, particularly in Primary Schools
  4. Ensure that their duty of care to SAS Staff in relation to violence is upheld
  5. Pay the salary increase between 1 July to 14 July 2022 by administrative order
  6. Meet their industrial responsibilities to consult with the PSA on the implementation of any program that affects workload and/or job opportunities for our members

The PSA is waiting on a response from the department and will report back to members on potential actions to progress these matters in the near future.

The union is considering all possible actions on these issues.

So save the date of 12 October 2022 in your diaries, and keep a lookout for further updates from the PSA in the near future.

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