On 18 September the Secretary announced that after months of negotiations with the Teachers Federation, effective from 9 October 2023, School Counsellors will receive the largest pay-rise in decades, of between 7 and 26.1 per cent, depending on the classification. This was via an agreed award variation to the Crown Employees (Teachers in Schools and Related Employees) Salaries and Conditions Award 2022. The new pay structure for School Counsellors is now in effect and the pay rise was administered to School Counsellors in today’s pay run. This has created a huge and unacceptable pay disparity between School Counsellors and their School Psychologist colleagues, who do the same work.
On 28 September 2023 the PSA wrote to the Secretary seeking consent for a one-year variation to the Crown Employees (School Psychologists- Department of Education) Salaries Award 2022, to administer the same pay-rises and salary structure from 9 October 2023, to maintain pay parity between the roles. On 5 October 2023 the Secretary responded that the department did not consent to the PSA’s proposed variation to the Psychologists’ Award but would seek bargaining parameters for discussions.
On 9 October 2023, the PSA proceeded to file an s130 dispute in the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to seek its assistance concerning the issue of pay disparity. Since the Department failed to seek bargaining parameters for the School Psychologists concurrently, our members have faced significant delays year on year, before receiving the pay rises awarded to their School Counsellor colleagues. The PSA’s dispute outlined to the Commission that the department’s decision to award a unilateral pay-rise to School Counsellors:
- has created an unacceptable two-tiered system of employment whereby two groups of workers, performing the same work for the same employer, are paid significantly different salaries.
- represents a departure from a long-standing practice of fixing the salary rates of School Psychologists to the rates of School Counsellors for the past eight years since the School Psychologist role was created.
The matter was listed for Compulsory Conciliation before Commissioner Webster today, 25 October 2023. PSA staff and PSA School Psychologist delegates attended the Commission in person. The Commissioner expressed concern about the obvious unfairness of pay disparity between roles that do the same work, especially in light of the recently arbitrated Psychologists’ Award and IRC powers to ensure an industrial relations framework that is just and fair.
In today’s conciliation, the PSA was able to secure a RECOMMENDATION from the Commissioner that the matter should be progressed expeditiously. The PSA has asked for a report back on 20 November 2023 and the Department has given an undertaking to keep the PSA informed if meetings with government are held before then. The PSA has also agreed to meet with the Department for a progress report between now and the report back date.