Mass protests on cards

The Latrobe Valley could become the site of more industrial action if the State Government fails to keep its promise, an education union representative has warned.

Following eight months of industrial action by nurses, teachers are now threatening to follow suit.

Australian Education Union Gippsland organiser Jeff Gray said while negotiations between the union and State Government were currently underway in “good faith”, the rollout of industrial action seemed “likely”.

“The most pressure politicians respond to is the mass walk out of employees,” Mr Gray said.

“We hope to avoid (industrial action) – it costs money, disruption… but the government is being extremely difficult.”

According to Mr Gray an agreement made between the previous State Government and the AEU will come into affect within a few weeks.

He added Victorian teachers were currently behind four other states on the pay scale.

The State Government began pay negotiations last year, in an atmosphere soured by the union’s anger over Premier Ted Baillieu’s backflip on a pre-election promise to make Victoria’s teachers the highest paid in Australia.

The government’s current 2.5 per cent pay increase has come under fire, with Mr Gray adding it was insufficient.

“A 2.5 per cent increase is not going to attract retain the best teachers in Victoria,” he said.

“If we accept that 2.5 per cent, we’re only going to drop in our rankings.”

The AEU has put in a claim of a 10 per cent pay increase, but the claim “can be negotiated”, Mr Gray said.

He said while the union recognised its claim could be negotiated, it was happy to accept “something in between” the 2.5 per cent and 10 per cent offer placed on the table.

The Valley has previously witnessed half day stoppages rolled out by the AEU in 2007-08, with Mr Gray warning a repeat of history may occur, if an acceptable outcome was not reached by mid-April.