Teachers’ stopwork to proceed

VICTORIAN public school staff will participate in a statewide stopwork this Thursday after the State Government failed in its bid to obtain an injunction against the industrial action last week.

The Australian Education Union Victoria branch welcomed the Federal Court’s decision last Thursday, although it criticised the State Government for “wasting time and taxpayers’ money”.

The parties, which have been at loggerheads over a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement met on Friday after commencing “intense negotiations” last Monday.

The court’s decision last week coincided with the launch of the AEU’s new advertising campaign highlighting the State Government’s $2 billion cuts to state public education, while urging Premier Ted Baillieu to resolve the EBA dispute.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Robert Clark said while the government was disappointed an interim injunction had not been granted, the State Government would continue its legal action seeking a ruling that a range of items in the unions’ log of claims could not be included in the EBA, rendering future industrial action unlawful.

“To date the AEU has continued to reject the government’s efforts to make Victoria’s best teachers the highest paid in Australia,” the spokesperson for Mr Clark said, adding the government was “determined to ensure better pay for our best teachers”.

“The government is disappointed that reaching agreement on pay increases for teachers has been delayed for so long by the union’s ongoing intransigence in refusing to accept that the skills, hard work and dedication of good teachers should be able to be recognised in their pay packets.”

The spokesperson said if not matched by productivity offsets, the AEU’s latest proposal remained “way beyond government wages policy” and was “unsustainable”.

“The government remains willing to agree to pay increases similar to agreed with police and nurses provided that, like police and nurses, those increases are matched by genuine productivity offsets.”

Meanwhile, AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said the State Government had “dragged the EBA dispute out for over two years” by “refusing to listen to the concerns of education staff, parents and the broader community”.

“The AEU put a significantly revised offer – of 4.2 per cent per year over three years – to the State Government in November,” Ms Peace said.

“This offer was comparable to teacher salaries in New South Wales and South Australia and in line with the police deal in Victoria.”