The Guardian March 29, 2000


Permanency for teachers

by Rohan Gowland

Victorian teachers have welcomed an announcement by the Bracks Labor 
Government that teachers on short-term contracts will be offered 
permanency.

Prior to the Kennett Liberal Government, teachers had ongoing or permanent 
employment. Then Kennett introduced short-term contracts of between six 
weeks and one year.

The short-term contracts robbed teachers, not only of their job security, 
but also of their entitlements, such as sick pay and holiday pay.

The campaign by teachers to regain permanency has been waged for some time; 
in 1998, Australian Education Union Victorian Branch President Mary Bluett, 
speaking to The Guardian, said, "In other industries, if you 
increase casualisation it undermines union organisation  there is clearly 
an intent from the [Kennett] Government [to do the same with teaching]".

Ms Bluett said the short-term contracts had had a dramatic impact on the 
employment rights of teachers and pointed out that those affected the worst 
were the young teachers because they were new. If there are breaks in their 
service, for even one day, they don't get holiday pay and a whole range of 
conditions.

Teacher shortage

Education Minister Mary Delahunty said the move by her Government would 
alleviate the teacher shortage that has grown under the Kennett Government.

The lack of job security and career opportunity under short-term contracts 
forced hundreds of teachers every year to leave the public school system 
and seek jobs with private schools. This meant a drain of some of the best 
talent.

This situation was deliberately created by the Kennett Government as a 
means of turning public education into a second-rate "welfare" system  a 
back-up to the private school system  as well as weakening their 
collective bargaining power.

"Nearly 20 per cent of government school teachers are currently employed on 
short-term contracts  the Government expects to reduce this 
substantially", said Ms Delahunty.

"The former Government embraced a short-term contract approach to teaching 
and there's no doubt this turned thousands of prospective teachers away 
from a career in the classroom", she said.

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