Back to school activities affected

AS the new schooling year kicks off, public schools in the Latrobe Valley have seen some changes or disruptions to their usual welcome activities as part of teachers’ industrial action.

According to Australian Education Union Gippsland region organiser Jeff Gray, some of the activities impacted by work bans could include welcome barbecues and school camps.

“While some activities have been cancelled, some schools are running some exceptions; for instance having a shortened afternoon barbecue for year seven students’ parents,” Mr Gray said.

“Some teachers willingly give up a lot of their own time to do unpaid extra duties, and with the start of school, having term nights and barbecues, they do it without complaint.

“It is difficult (to adhere strictly to the work bans) because some members feel a sense of responsibility.”

Mr Gray said while the union strongly encouraged members to participate in the work bans, it could not and does not try to enforce it.

“No member will be punished (for not participating in the bans), although we want them to because it’s their fight,” he said.

“Some schools feel having events in the first week is important; some might hold them but at reduced lengths or earlier in the afternoon.”

Lowanna College AEU representative and AEU Latrobe Valley councillor Ross Jackson said as a result of the work bans, the school would not be holding its annual year seven get-together.

“The year seven overnight camp is also not being done,” Mr Jackson said.

“(Teachers) are angry the government is now threatening to fine teachers (who strike) $6600 individually if their court action is successful.”

With students coming back to school, Mr Jackson said it was the parents who were disadvantaged most as they would not get to know their children’s teachers.

“Later on, excursions which extend outside the 38 hours a week may affect the kids,” he said.

Earlier this week, even as the AEU and State Government entered into “intense negotiations”, the latter commenced legal action to seek an injunction against the AEU and the Community and Public Sector Union for planned strike actions, including a 14 February stop work.

“The issuing of these proceedings follows the unions’ failure to call off their industrial action despite being given ample warning of the government’s intentions to issue legal proceedings if the unions persisted in their industrial action,” a spokesperson for the Minister for Finance Robert Clark said.

In response, the AEU accused the State Government of wasting taxpayers’ money in a “wasteful court action”.

Saying it was “extremely disappointed” the government had launched legal action the same day negotiations began in earnest to resolve the public school staff EBA impasse, AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said it was “staggering” a government responsible for more than $2 billion in cuts to public education were now wasting money on a “counterproductive court action”.

Ms Peace said neither the AEU nor their lawyers had been notified of the legal action.

Talks between the parties broke down late last year; the dispute between the parties has been ongoing for more than two years.