Call to honour pledge

THE message of discontent with the State Government was loud and clear as more than 200 Gippsland teachers undertook stop work action on Thursday.

While some teachers donned the colour red and took to Parliament’s steps, others joined about 20,000 Victorian teachers who stopped work for the day.

For Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett, the writing has been on the wall.

“We hoped the pledge (by Premier Ted Baillieu) that Victorian teachers would be the highest paid in the country would have gotten us a better enterprise bargaining agreement, without us having to resort to industrial action,” Ms Bluett said.

“It’s not just a question about pay, it’s about conditions of employment.

“We want the government to get back to the negotiation table and keep their promises.”

The AEU is holding Mr Baillieu to his word and is calling on a 30 per cent pay increase over three years for teachers, and a reduction of the number of contracted teachers. A spokesperson for the State Government however said a 30 per cent pay rise with no performance targets “out of touch with community standards and out of touch with the remuneration practices of most Victorian workplaces”.

About six Latrobe Valley schools closed as a result of the stop work action, including Kosciuszko Street Primary, Elizabeth Street Primary, Traralgon South Primary, Kurnai College Churchill, Boolarra Primary and Latrobe Special Development School. Other schools continued classes with bare minimum staff, but administrative heads said students who did attend school on the day had access to “top quality education”

Despite having “50 per cent” of its teachers undertake stop work action, Traralgon College principal Paul Van Breugel said the school “certainly did our best to provide for the students who turned up”.

Newborough Primary, on the other hand, had eight of its 10 staff away, with six of the seven grades cancelled for the day. Principal Tim Delany said he hoped the government would come to a better agreement with the AEU, adding no school “wants interruptions”.

He also condemned the government’s proposal of performance pay, adding it led to “teachers competing against one another”.

“Research shows the performance-based model actively has reduced student outcomes,” Mr Delany said.

His thoughts were shared by AEU state councillor for Latrobe Valley Angela Stringer, who said the large turnout in Melbourne proved the need for improved negotiations.