More action likely

NEGOTIATIONS between teachers and the State Government have culminated in a “disappointing” outcome according to a key Gippsland union spokesperson.

Australian Education Union Gippsland organiser Jeff Gray confirmed the likelihood of the region facing the onslaught of further industrial action, after the government failed to make a “better offer” before the union’s 16 April deadline.

“The department (of education) are sticking to their 2.5 per cent annual pay increase… which is just not acceptable,” Mr Gray said.

“We will continue to negotiate but it is likely at this stage that some form of action will come into effect early June.

“(Victorian Premier) Ted Baillieu did make a promise of making Victorian teachers the highest paid, but there’s no commitment there so there’s no option but to take industrial action.”

Mr Gray said the Victorian branch of the AEU would apply to Fair Work Australia next week, to initiate the process.

With a membership spanning more than 1000 teachers, the region could potentially witness mass stop-work action across schools in the next two months.

The union is currently calling for a 10 per cent annual increase and after seven months of negotiations, AEU Victorian branch president Mary Blewett said “no progress has been made”.

In a letter to Mr Baillieu, Ms Blewett highlighted the strong possibility of “state-wide, regional and sub-branch stop works of one to 24 hours duration; bans, limitations and other protest action”.

Readers of The Express’ Facebook page expressed their concern over the possibility of industrial action, with some saying it would disrupt student learning.

“More strike action won’t fix the problem, it disrupts the students right to learn,” Casper Jones wrote, while Ann Beam agreed writing, “All striking does is gets (teachers) a small pay rise… but it takes anywhere from days to weeks away from student education”.

Fellow reader Phillip Mayer disagreed, adding, “education should be the highest priority… and getting the best people to do the job should be the focus; pay them right and the disparity might change”.

However, a spokesperson for Teaching Profession Minister Peter Hall said negotiations were still ongoing, adding the government would “continue to negotiate in the best interest of Victoria’s school children and their parents”.