Teachers to fight on
Thursday, 3rd November, 2011
By Erica Visser
Teachers at yesterday’s two-hour stop working meeting voted to take more industrial action on November 29 following the rejection of an award offer from the State Government.
The offer of a 2.5 per cent pay increase was made on Monday but the Federation said it would slash the real income of teachers due to inflation levels of 3.6 per cent.
Local NSW Teachers’ Federation representative, Maureen Clark, said that the offer was an “insulting” attempt to prolong negotiations for the new awards, which are due to begin on January 1, at the expense of teaching staff.
She put the belated offer down to a cheap attempt to show the public that teachers were “stubborn and hard to deal with”.
Negotiations for a new award have traditionally begin in early September and at this stage it is unlikely that a new award will be agreed on by the new year.
Mrs Clark said that since the introduction of the Government’s wages policy earlier this year, teachers awards had been under threat.
“The O’Farrell Government rushed through legislation at almost an indecent pace, denying public sector workers access to the IRC (Industrial Relations Commission),” Mrs Clark said.
“We’re expected to trade off our hard won working conditions that we already have.”
The offer stated that teachers would remain on the same conditions until February while the Government consulted with the Federation about reforms through the ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ initiative.
Mrs Clark said that there was no knowing what reforms might be announced in February.
She said that the Government could make cuts to remote area incentives, casual teaching staff and subsidies for travel costs.
“What reforms must we give up on to pay for our increase?” Mrs Clarke said.
“What cuts to spending? We are already lagging behind city schools.
“While the Government saves, we are in fact are losing.”
Mrs Clark expressed concern about the quality of teaching in Far West schools and stated that people will not be attracted to the teaching profession unless they are offered a professional wage.
She said local MP John Williams’ support of the Government’s wages policy demonstrated “a complete lack of understanding” of the issue.
But Mr Williams denied the Government was trading in teachers’ rights.
“It’s the fact that nothing’s really changed in the policy that’s in place. It’s unchanged from what (for Labor Government Treasurer) Michael Costa introduced in 2008,” he said.
“It’s just misleading to continue on with the rivalry.”
Mrs Clarke said that Mr Williams’ claims that policy was unchanged were “disingenuous”.
“Obviously it has, because the offer is going to be contingent upon reforms that will come out of ‘Local Schools’ Local Decisions’ consultation which has the potential to adversely affect schools in disadvantaged areas,” she said.
“My question to John is, what cost savings could he see our local schools making?”
Mrs Clark said that unless teachers were presented with a fair and reasonable offer, industrial action would continue, probably in the form of a 24-hour strike.
“If they undertook to negotiate in good faith there would be no need for this industrial action,” she said.