Posts Tagged ‘erosion of pay and conditions’

Australian Poverty Line

October 17, 2016

Recent reports of 3 million Australians below poverty line (where defined as below 50% of median income) – currently $426.30 per week for a single person – have started some public response. One person commented online that increasing welfare wouldn’t help, as it would drive up the average income and thus leave them still below par – another voter who does not know the difference between mean and median. Depressing that they can vote…

My immediate thought was different: have a major depression, and weaken Unions so more workers join the 32% of below-current- poverty-line whose main income is paid employment. Then the dole will be above that definition of poverty, while the executives stay on salaries giving over the poverty level weekly income per executive hour!

To compare with cost of basic needs: The March 2016 Henderson poverty line for a single person, including housing, is $425.61 for a single not in work, $524.89 for a single in the workforce. (The Henderson poverty lines are based on a benchmark income of $62.70 for the December quarter 1973 established by the Henderson poverty inquiry. The benchmark income was the disposable income required to support the basic needs of a family of two adults and two dependent children. Poverty lines for other types of family are derived from the benchmark using a set of equivalence scales. )

Australia’s Newstart Allowance (single person over 22  unemployment benefit) currently is at best about $335 per week, including rent assistance, and the Government is proposing to cut the Energy Supplement from it – about $8 per week. That is why I keep calling for those on welfare to have the right to surrender 90% of their income for guaranteed, supervised basic living provided by the Government.

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Anorexic approach to “Cutting the Fat” in the Australian public service: cut the fat at the Executive level instead.

January 2, 2014

The Centre for Policy Development   says  that the Australian public sector is as efficient as the private sector once different responsibilities (e.g. more at-risk students going to state schools) are taken into account, and that OECD 2010 reports said Oz had 5th lowest taxing government in OECD but still 9th most effective.

Current State and Federal Oz governments are denigrating their public service staff performance, cutting staff without cutting duties, and not giving the staff guidance as to which officially required activities should be cut when there isn’t time to do everything.  They are  trumpeting “increased investment” in areas when the money is spent on basic construction for aging infrastructure and increasing population,  but actual staff-hours-per-thousand-clients are cut.  They are calling for us to match the  best of OECD results despite lower taxes, less cultural support , and more diverse population – and they dread talk of increasing taxes. Their political philosophy echoes USA conservatives.

It still looks better here than in the USA (read  http://www.viralnova.com/hospital-bill/  ) – but the local politicians are working on matching USA’s treatment of the most vulnerable.  They are even continuing to negotiate “Free Trade” agreements without provision for “Human Rights and OH&S” tarriffs.

It makes sense to learn from others’ mistakes, but our politicians seem determined instead to repeat the errors their predecessors made in using slaves (cheaper than the working class) in Ancient Rome and in too-rapid attempts to balance budgets when dealing with the recovery from the Great Depression.  (See Bill Fawcett’s “Doomed to Repeat”)  We aren’t using slaves?  Consider the conditons in the third-world countries to which work is “outsourced.”

That’s Modern Western democracy in action: “leaders” too much led by daily polls and the “perceived self-interest” push of their wealthy backers.  Alas,  the wealthy backers do not remember that a great gap between employee income and owner’s income leads to social problems which can destroy a civilization.  And our civilization is now global.

So, how about all shareholders (and Oz is, famously, a nation of shareholders – we just don’t usually vote our holdings) getting together and giving our proxies to some socially aware groups, on the condition that they vote to make companies limit the highest pay rate per hour (maximum 24 hours / day 365 days/year)  for any organization to be twenty times the hourly pay of the lowest paid employee – including those overseas, and including those hired by subcontractors.  This includes directors’ “remuneration.”  Remember, as voters, we can limit our politicians’ pay if we choose.   And add an “insult tax” where people are paid too much more than others : where the poorest in your country live on $13,000 pa and the median income is $43,100  an income over $800,000 is a dire insult.

Too hard?

Consider  limiting the “remuneration” to twenty times the workers’ pay as expressed as a percentage of average weekly earnings (AWE) in the county in which the work is performed, and remuneration in terms of the AWE of the Director’s country of residence.

Worried about talented people going overseas?  Consider: if they want more than the limit,  and don’t want to support the poorest, what attitudes will their children bring to our schools?  Do we want that in our society?  What type of society do we want our politicians and business leaders to aim for?

Imagine being known as a country dedicated to equality of opportunity,  and with an underlying belief in “from each according to ability, to each according to need, with our descendants able to live as we do.”  Imagine a society where your value is not measured in money.

Now help make reality fit the dream.

Teachers aren’t in it for the money: doing the maths

June 27, 2011

From time to time various Australian States claim to have “The best paid teachers in Australia”.  I think they would be more honest to claim “The least worst paid teachers”:

Take a four-year trained Primary teacher in Western Australia on a starting salary of $56 122, rising to $61 567 after a year of service (the latter is the starting salary for a five-year trained teacher).

I will compare ves effective hourly payment with that of a starting-level Education Assistant/Teachers Aid on a starting salary of $33 484 / 19.75 per hour  (2010 WAIRC 00742)

They have the same school hours, but the teacher is expected to be present before and after school to open and close the class, meet parents and students, do required bureaucratic work, deal with emails, write up the daily workpad,  and so forth.  In addition, a teacher has to work out of school hours to complete important duties such as: prepare and change programs and lessons to meet the students’ needs; attend professional development; represent the school in out-of-hours activities; do professional reading;  explore, collect, and document useful materials for  activities;, contact parents; mark assessments; and write student reports.

I have heard teachers say that they regularly do over twenty hours per week out of school – that is, beyond the minimum of five hours at school before and after class, and the DOT time in school.  This does not include preparatory work done over school “vacations”.  First-year teachers are told to expect much longer hours, often eighty hours a week.  To be conservative, let us assume the new teacher is a genius and can get away with a term-time weekly average of the five hours at school and twenty-five out of school, and donates vacation time.

If teachers were paid the extra school hours at single time and the away-from-school  hours at time-and-a half,  and paid this  at the EA hourly rate of $19.75 per hour; if this were paid for 39 weeks a year; and if a first-year teacher received the EA base annual of $33 484 for the school year hours the EA attends,

 Then  the new teacher would get

$33 484 + (39 * (5 + 25 * 1.5) * $19.75)

= $33 484 + $32 735

=$ 66 219

So, for the first two years (ending on $61 567), the new genius teacher can expect an effective hourly rate below that of a new Education Assistant.  Less organised and gifted teachers would receive much less.

Note that I have made conservative assumptions on hours worked;  have had the teacher donate some holiday time;  have not made deductions for the purchse of professional reading, professional training,  and class materials;  and have not included double time for work on Sundays, although many conferences are scheduled for weekends and most teachers do some work on Sundays throughout term.

Teachers aren’t in it for the money.

It reminds me of the story of a Martial Arts master who received many gifts from those he taught, gifts according to their income.  A very rich man said: “Come and teach me, I’ll pay you well.”  Sensai was offended and said “You can’t afford to pay for my teaching!”

As I noted previously, Australian teachers’ pay relative to Average Weekly Earnings (and relative to backbenchers’ pay) has dropped massively over the past thirty years.  If the schools can’t afford to pay teachers more per work hour than unskilled workers, then Teachers’ Unions must demand that society as a whole regulates for extreme courtesy¹ towards teachers:  students, parents, and bureaucrats must recognise teachers’ years of training, specialist knowledge behind decisions, advanced diagnostic skills, and out-of-school workload,  and the complex challenges teachers face, and reflect this in their approach to individual teachers on individual issues.  

You can’t afford to pay the teachers what they are worth.  Recognise the imbalance in  social obligation:  you owe them, big time.

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¹: Courtesy is the behaviour, respect is an internal state.  It is impossible to coerce people to have respect – one can only coerce them to produce the socially defined behaviours indicative of respect.  I believe that it is time for some coercion.

Backbenchers, Blackhawks, and battling teachers

March 21, 2011

One of the problems for teachers is increasing conflict with different parents’ ideas of “the best” education for their children.  And I do mean that ambiguously.  At the same time, the teachers are feeling less valued by society – and with reason.  This devaluation does, I believe, result in the teacher having less social standing, and thus less interpersonal influence when there is a difference of opinion with a parent.

Parental actions
Compared with the 1970s, there is now less acceptance of difference of opinion between parent and teacher, or between parents of different families, and less willingness to wait so that others’ needs can be met  I think this is related to this being a time of one or two child families, and with parents also raised in small families:  firstly, there is less experience of inescapable tests of patience and deferral of desires in the toddler years;  secondly, there is less of a relaxed, experienced parent willingness to allow experimentation (you can catch up later, really); thirdly, although it is risky to admit it, in a larger family there is the sense of “hey, we have a spare …

So, when a clique of Blackhawk parents (not mere caring helicopter parents – these are the ones which attack with metaphoric heavy weapons in military-style strikes) do the ring-around and demand that the principal intervene, without having spoken to the class teacher –  remember, they really want the best for their children.  One can only hope  the principal can support the teacher – at least by suggesting that the parents  see the teacher to start with.  When two such groups start a brush-war over control of the teaching of the class, with irreconcilable differences in opinion on what “real” schoolwork is, it is easier for the teacher at first – but the inter-group tension can sour the whole class!

It takes a lot of energy to combine opinion-change and classroom teaching and administration liaison. It takes a lot of time to talk with everyone who wants to be heard.  It also takes formally collected data and references to show that the teaching style is best-practice. At the same time, the teacher still has to do the usual programming, but with the unnerving sensation that it may all be changed from force of parents rather than the usual change from force of events  or Government policy.  Also, at the same time, they have to come to terms with the new National Curriculum and cope with  mainstreamed special needs students.  No wonder teachers are finding their workmore stressful now.

Salary
In Western AUstralia, a backbencher MP from August 2010 gets $134,526 p.a. before allowances (1) ; a federal member gets $136,640 effective from 1 August 2010 (2);  a new teacher gets $56,112  rising to a maximum of $84,863 (3).

In 1975 the federal MP’s base annual rate was $14 500  (4);  a new WA teacher in 1975 was paid 176.8 per cent of Australian average ordinary time earnings, AWE (5) .  At $157.70 per week (6) that is roughly $14 600.  (The same multiple applied to November 2010 AWE gives an annual rate now of $224 978.)

The change is from roughly equal salaries to the new backbencher getting 2.4 times more than the new teacher.  Since 1975, has the politician’s workload really got that much greater than the teacher’s has?  New teachers used to be able to buy a home and have a stay-at-home spouse to nurture them; now they need both partners working to pay the rent, let alone buy, and their partner is tired, with less energy to share their troubles.  In effect, regardless of the above pressures their paid work has become harder because they now have to do more about the house and have less emotional support at home.

Economic and Social History: why the change?

It is unusually simple:  teachers have, like others who work in human-contact (productivity inherently fixed) work, in Australia suffered a decline in relative income resulting from the 1980s national decision to abandon Cost of Living – linked pay increases.   As long as increases in pay are productivity linked, the problem will continue.  Police, nurses, taxi drivers, social workers and orderlies are some of the others  similarly affected – you may have noticed them complaining, too.

Conclusion:

As Leigh and Ryan note (on a statistical basis:  (7)), as the salary drops relative to other careers those with stronger talents see that higher cash rewards are available in other careers and many follow the money.  Add the resulting change in average ability to the inevitable nouveau-riche tendency to value a person solely by their income, and the result is inevitable.

It takes a special person to be very bright, creative, and choose to teach in the current environment.  These are the teachers who can reach the disaffected, alienated geniuses in the class – the ones who can become brilliant leaders, researchers, drifters, druggies, or  very well organised criminals.  If you get one of those teachers, protect them from the Blackhawks – the whole world may owe you one day.

Let’s start a campaign: return to 1975 relativities.  While we are at it, adjust the taxation thresholds, deductions, and child/carer allowances  to 1975 times CPI increases – now, that is interesting maths!  (Is there a volunteer to calculate the new figures?)

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1. http://www.sat.wa.gov.au/MembersOfParliament/2010August/Pages/Default.aspx)

2. http://www.remtribunal.gov.au/federalParliamentarians/default.asp?menu=Sec5&switch=on

3.  http://www.det.wa.edu.au/teachingwa/detcms/navigation/working-in-a-public-school/salaries-and-teaching-levels/?page=1&tab=Main#toc1 ).

4.  http://www.sat.wa.gov.au/MembersOfParliament/Pages/1999December.aspx

5.    Chris Curtis on http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/maralynparker/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/greedy_nsw_government_takes_money_from_public_primary_school_students/6.  ttp://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/free.nsf/0/5BACEEAF1C7DF296CA25750C00194241/$File/63020_SEP1975.pdf

7.  http://people.anu.edu.au/andrew.leigh/pdf/TrendsTeacherQuality.pdf)