More strikes planned as teachers increase fight

PARENTS are being warned more strikes could come after hundreds of Latrobe Valley teachers took part in the largest Australian Education Union stop-work action yesterday.

Thousands of Valley primary and secondary students were impacted by the stop-work action which aimed to protest against the State Government’s agreements offer for teachers, principals and education staff.

AEU Gippsland organiser Jeff Gray said yesterday’s strike, which involved about 40,000 teachers and principals, was simply the AEU’s first move to escalate the campaign.

“We started with low key bans at first and that hasn’t got us anywhere,” Mr Gray said.

“The meeting (yesterday at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne) is considering increasing our campaign which will restrict report writing in term four and we are looking at further stoppages including a full day (of stop-work) in February.”

Yesterday’s meeting also resolved to begin half day stop work actions effective as of next term.

Enterprise Bargaining Agreement negotiations have deteriorated since April between the AEU and the State Government, which is refusing to budge from its offer of 2.5 per cent a year pay increase as well class sizes and teachers workload.

Mr Gray said as part of their ongoing campaign, staff plan to work to a strict 38 hours per week working rule.

“This will mean teachers are advised to come to work at the normal time in the morning and will ban camps and excursions, open nights and information nights that fall out of that 38 hours,” he said.

“We are increasing pressure so the government comes back to table with something more appropriate.”

Teachers and principals in the Latrobe Valley have already taken part in seven weeks of bans and limitations, including bans on responding to Education Department emails, participation in surveys and implementation of the national curriculum.

Despite disrupting hundreds of Victorian schools, Mr Gray said teachers were feeling supported by students’ parents.

“No doubt there are parents that are unhappy and we recognise it is difficult for a number of parents and we regret that, but we have little option than to make a strong public statement to let (Premier Ted) Baillieu know they need to come back to the table with something better,” Mr Gray said.

However, Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall yesterday released a statement responding to the strike which denied increasing teachers’ pay was the solution.

“We all recognise that teaching is an important and challenging role, and that teachers deserve to be appropriately renumerated,” Mr Hall said.

“But we also know that despite significant increases in teacher wages over the last 10 years, student outcomes in our schools have been going backwards.”

Mr Hall said currently, graduate teachers earn more than accountants and lawyers in their first years of teaching, despite entry scores for teaching degrees “dropping steadily”.

“We need a new approach to the teaching profession,” he said.

Despite election commitments promising Victorian teachers deserve to be the best paid in the country, Mr Hall said an overhaul of the system was required.

“We need to encourage the best and brightest into our schools, we need to recognise and reward excellence in teaching, from the first year teacher to those with many decades’ experience,” he said.

“We need to encourage new cohorts of young people into teaching, and frankly, we need to move on those who do not make a strong contribution to our students and our school communities.”