Big win for Residential Colleges
Residential Colleges across WA contribute to the lifeblood of regional communities by giving the opportunity for hundreds of WA families to get the best education for their children.
The Colleges are boarding houses for students in remote areas who want to achieve a secondary education whilst staying relatively close to home. These home-away-from-homes are run by a small group of dedicated public sector workers at the Department of Education, who have been working under an archaic Industrial Agreement and Award for many years.
Since the dismantlement of the Country High School Hostels Authority in 2017, college staff have been seeking to change their job levels and conditions with the department. Their outdated Award included job levels determined by the number of students, not by the skills or knowledge or length of service of a worker, and a commuted allowance which relies on the goodwill of workers and is completely insufficient for staff at the colleges.
In 2019, Delegates hard work, mounting pressure from the Union and finally a government review resulted in an Administrative Arrangement, which lay the foundation for a new Agreement to be negotiated in 2020.
Broome Residential College Delegates Nikki, John and Kristine were part of the team that helped create change for staff across WA.
Nikki, who works in administration at the College, says staff pride themselves on making sure the students feel safe and engaged with school.
“For us up in the Kimberly, the Residential College is extremely important so we can get students from remote communities to high school. But it’s the dedication of workers that contribute greatly to the success of the Residential Colleges work. Staff are really committed to the work they do.”
The Administrative Arrangement included flow-on conditions from the Public Sector CSA Agreement 2019 and addressed issues around the commuted allowance, understaffing, excessive hours and proper time keeping of hours worked. Most importantly, it included a reclassification of job levels to fall in line with the general public sector, which means an instant pay rise of between $3000 and $30,000.
Delegate Kristine said the win is more about being valued than money.
“It wonderful to be recognised for the professionalism that we have and to be recompensed for doing such an important job as having a duty of care for other people’s most precious things - their children.
“We go above and beyond because the student’s welfare is so important to us, and we work here because we want to bring out the best in the next generation,” she said.
The new Residential Colleges Agreement will be registered in the coming weeks and includes more FTE for all Residential Colleges, overtime payments, a 46% pay increase achieved for College Managers and leave loading at 20% for shift workers.
“If you firmly believe in something and stick together, you can ensure that you have true representation. At first, everyone thought ‘Oh it’s too hard’, but it just shows if you persevere, be open to working together with your employers in good faith and you really believe in what you’re doing, you can win.”