Extra leave, more paid hours and higher pay: Latest offer a step in the right direction, Teacher Assistants say

Stop work action and strong union advocacy has netted some significant wins for school staff, but the Rockliff Government has still failed to recognise true value of Teacher Assistants.

Australian Education Union Tasmania members are considering a revised Government wages offer which sets a path for better and fairer working conditions for Support Staff.

AEU Tasmania President David Genford said the offer, won through unprecedented member action, represented the biggest reduction in unpaid stand-down and the largest pay rise for support staff in years.

For Teacher Assistants, the offer means a pay rise above 7 per cent in the first year [3.5 per cent wage increase, $1500 base salary boost plus allowances], the ability to work extra paid hours and more paid leave.

But for AEU member Marisa Mastrocola, being a Primary School Teacher Assistant still isn’t a job that can fully support a family.

“Being stood down over the holidays without pay and being on government benefits I find to be dehumanising,” she said.

“There are also additional demands that come with that and not having a lot of money.”

The latest offer allows Teacher Assistants to work a total of 44 paid weeks of the year – up from 43 – plus adds three additional days of paid leave on top of additional annual leave.

“This offer is the beginning step and will make a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives and households,” Ms Mastrocola said.

“The fact we’re seeing more support for Teacher Assistants, through this offer, is a fabulous thing.”

Ms Mastrocola said the complexity of Teacher Assistant work and overall workloads had grown significantly in recent years, warranting the need for improved working conditions.

“I’m finding classrooms are becoming much more demanding,” she said.

“The role of a Teacher Assistant was once about washing paint brushes, laminating and helping out with basic tasks, now we’re dealing with high needs students and our work is much more trauma-based,” she said.

“Hopefully this offer opens up more dialogue of the actual role of Teacher Assistants and is a step towards redefining the job description.”

Mr Genford said it shouldn’t have taken Teacher Assistants walking off the job to make the Rockliff Government recognise the value they provide to student learning.

“Teacher Assistants are critical to student learning, but it’s taken the closure of every public school in Tasmania for the Rockliff Government to even start to recognise their contribution,” he said.

“While this offer has clear benefits in leave, additional hours and pay, AEU members are absolutely committed to ending the unacceptable practice of unpaid stand-down and will keep fighting until it’s gone.”