Saturday, 19th May, 2012
Teachers vote to continue their fight
By Erica Visser
Local school teachers yesterday voted unanimously to continue their industrial action in protest at what was described as the largest overhaul of the State education system in a century.
The decision was made at yesterday morning’s two-hour stop-work meeting which followed ongoing disputes between the NSW Teachers Federation and the State Government.
The Federation has accused the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, of being secretive and down-playing the planned ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ reforms since they were announced last year.
If the Government does not meet with the Federation to negotiate in the coming weeks, more strike action will take place before the end of the school term.
President of the Barrier Teachers Association, Maureen Clark, told the meeting held in the Musicians’ Club auditorium that similar reforms had previously failed in Victoria.
“We know that the changes like this in Victoria resulted in class size increases, thousands of teaching positions cut and many made into temporary positions,” Mrs Clark said.
“Special education positions have already been grouped under the same heading and teachers’ salaries have been effectively cut at 2.5 per cent.”
Mrs Clark said that the main issue was attracting quality teachers to the Far West after the reforms were in place.
“It essentially does become a competitive market. Schools in the east get first choice and without those incentives to attract teachers we’ll be worse off,” she said.
“And we may not see an effect for a year or a few years.”
Teachers Federation Western Region Organiser, Brett Bertalli, said that the campaign against the Government would intensify if Minister Piccoli continued to ignore requests to meet the Federation.
“It’s about educating parents on the devastating affects these reforms will bring,” Mr Bertalli said.
“We will attempt to meet with the Government and if that doesn’t happen then we expect to hold further action before the end of the term.”
Teachers Federation President, Laurie Mulheron, said that the reforms would be detrimental to schools.
“This is the biggest restructure of NSW education in history. It will have a very serious impact on students, teachers and the resourcing of our public schools,” Mr Mulheron said.
“This will affect every principal, classroom teacher, executive teacher and specialist support teacher.”
Mr Piccoli accused teachers of disrupted students’ education yesterday for “no good reason”.
“I have said time and again that I want to work with the union and other stakeholders on the Local Schools Local Decisions reforms,” he said.
“The offer to use the Department’s technology so that teachers can be informed of the union’s perspective demonstrates my commitment to the consultation process.”
The Local Schools Local Decisions initiative is due to begin before the end of the year and would operate in NSW schools for the next two years.
The Department of Education said yesterday that only 170 schools reported closing yesterday while the stop-work meeting was held. School resumed when the meeting finished at 10.30am.
It said this represented seven per cent of schools compared to the 26 per cent, or 591, schools that closed for a stop-work meeting in September.
At the last stop-work in November, 10 per cent, or 236 schools, reported closing, the department said.
The Director-General, Dr Michelle Bruniges, said she regretted that the Teachers Federation had decided to proceed with the strike and that it had rejected an offer to use the department’s audio visual facilities to conduct their stop-work meeting outside teaching hours.