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Australian Education Union wins significant back payment for teachers in laptop case

Nov 6, 2015Media Releases


The Australian Education Union in Victoria has just won millions of dollars back-payment for more than 40,000 Victorian teachers and principals in a landmark case.

The Federal Court today found the Victorian Government made unlawful deductions from teachers’ and principals’ salaries in contravention of the Fair Work Act, by requiring them to pay for access to the Education Department’s laptops directly out of wages.

“Laptop computers are essential for teachers and principals.  It is unreasonable for them to pay for resources that are a necessary part of their job,” said Meredith Peace, AEU Victorian President.

“Teachers need computers to write school reports, respond to parent emails, develop and co-ordinate curriculum, and collaborate with colleagues.   They do not sit in offices at desks, they teach in classrooms — so they need laptop computers.

“The AEU pursued this matter through the Federal Court because teachers and principals deserve the tools and resources that are essential to their jobs to be provided by their employer.  To attract and retain teachers we must provide standard professional tools.

“It is unreasonable to expect teachers and principals to pay for accessing their work computers.  Students themselves in many schools have laptops under the one-to-one laptop program.  Teachers are expected to engage their students in learning through digital devices and teach them the ICT skills they need to be successful learners in an increasingly digitised world, so they need a laptop.” said Ms Peace.

The Fair Work Act provides that an employer can only make deductions from an employee’s salary in limited circumstances, such as, where the deduction is allowed under the relevant award or enterprise agreement.  Justice Bromberg found the Department’s deductions were unauthorised under the Fair Work Act.

“Today’s decision means teachers and principals across the State who had monies unlawfully deducted from their wages are set to receive back pay and interest.

“We argued that even if the deductions were deemed to be authorised deductions were predominantly for the benefit of the Department, rather than the teachers themselves.

“We are pleased that the Federal Court found teachers should not have to spend their own wage to purchase items that are essential for their work.  This is a win for our members and sets an important precedent,” said Ms Peace.

For more information on the case Australian Education Union v State of Victoria (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development) [2015] FCA 1196, click below to see: