The Guardian June 7, 2000


Teachers:
NSW resolved, but Victoria, Queensland battle on

by Peter Mac

The NSW teachers' dispute has finally been resolved with teachers voting 
last Friday to end their dispute. But a similar resolution for Victorian 
and Queensland teachers has yet to be won. In each state, despite years of 
suppression of teachers' pay and conditions, the incumbent Labor 
governments have opposed their claims.

Although the salary increases for NSW teachers are welcome, the gradual 
erosion of conditions of work that has occurred under both Labor and 
coalition governments over the last twenty years continue.

Sue Simpson, President of the NSW Teachers Federation stated that: "The 
government should now recognise that it is best to work with teachers and 
the Teachers' Federation on educational change."

Good advice! However, there is no indication that either of the three state 
labor governments are willing to accept it. Victorian teachers, who were 
subjected to years of particularly vicious treatment by the Kennett 
government, have submitted a catch-up claim for a series of pay rises 
totalling 30 per cent over a period of time. Victorian Education Minister 
Mary Delahunty recently remarked that teachers were underpaid and 
undervalued. However, last week Victorian Premier Steve Bracks rejected the 
State teachers' pay claims, stating publicly that he thought they deserved 
less than 3 per cent.

The Premier then contradicted himself with a statement that teachers were 
indeed undervalued. Much of the present claim for Victorian teachers is to 
compensate for inflation during the Kennett years of wage suppression. 

Queensland teachers are discussing taking strike action over school 
funding, teacher conditions, class sizes and salaries. The Queensland 
Teachers' Union has completed an analysis of the most recent State budget 
which reveals that education funding was actually cut. Teachers are also 
particularly concerned over the failure of the government to offer a 
reasonable new enterprise bargaining agreement. 

Queensland TAFE teachers have already agreed to take strike action over the 
government's refusal to negotiate a separate enterprise bargaining 
agreement, despite there having already been two such agreements.

State governments have paid little attention to the looming shortage of 
teachers in state schools around the country. Studies by the Australian 
Council of Deans of Education indicate that within five years this will 
become a serious problem, with many new teachers opting for better-paid 
jobs in wealthy private schools, or leaving teaching altogether. The 
Council's President, Professor Richard Bates of Deakin University predicts 
that: "if nothing is done, it looks like we will be about 40 percent short 
of the primary teacher graduates we need, and 50 per cent short of the 
secondary." 

This has become an issue of deep concern for teachers and parents alike 
around the nation, who claim that it's time for governments to begin 
treating the state school system and teachers, with the respect and support 
they deserve.

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