The Guardian February 2, 2000


Teachers vow to fight on

by Rohan Gowland

"Bring back Metherell! We love you!", teachers jokingly called out at a 
spirited and emotional rally in Sydney last week  making the point that 
the NSW Labor Government's current attack on the quality of public 
education goes much further than anything attempted by the infamous former 
Liberal Education Minister, Dr Terry Metherell.

The teachers were demonstrating their strong opposition to the Government's 
proposed Award  the Government's own "log of claims" against teachers, 
which offered a meagre pay rise of four per cent over four years in 
exchange for increased workloads, longer hours and reduced holidays.

This is in sharp contrast with the 10 per cent pay rise the politicians put 
forward for themselves and much larger pay rises for teachers in the 
private education sector.

Sue Simpson, of the NSW Teachers' Federation (NSWTF) told the rally, "It's 
good to know that our colleagues in the independent [private, religious] 
schools received a New Year present of a 3.5 per cent pay rise.

"Last year, they received a pay rise of 5.5 per cent over the whole year. 
They will receive another 5.5 per cent salary increase this year. Their New 
Year present was just a first instalment. They'll receive another two per 
cent pay rise on 1st May."

In contrast, the Government was offering public school teachers just two 
per cent from the start of this year, said Ms Simpson.

Teachers are angry over the way the Government had tried to impose its 
terms on them and cut the union out of the process by issuing its document 
directly to teachers over the internet.

A speaker representing TAFE teachers said "that document must be taken 
off the agenda", to which the crowd responded by chanting, "Off! 
Off! Off!".

Ms Simpson said that for a genuine political solution, the Government needs 
to change its confrontationalist and provocative attitude which has 
resulted in "unprecedented public abuse of teachers" by the Minister John 
Aquilina and Director-General of Education Ken Boston.

However, the Government is continuing to push to have the document forced 
on teachers. The morning of the rally, arbitration proceedings over the 
document began in the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).

"Proceeding with that document, rejected by the whole teaching profession, 
will do nothing to repair relations with the teaching profession", said Ms 
Simpson.

Ms Simpson warned that teachers would not accept the Government using the 
tactics BHP has used in the Pilbara or that Patrick had used in the MUA 
dispute. She said as long as the Government pursues its current line, then 
teachers "will have no alternative but to continue with our campaign of 
political lobbying and industrial action".

"Politicians and their bureaucrats need to remember that the expectations 
on our schools and colleges are immense. They need to recognise that as 
teachers, very much part of a caring profession, we want to do our best. 
But we need to be supported  and you certainly don't support people by 
abusing them and you don't support them by not adequately funding their 
efforts."

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