BY CHRIS LATHAM
PERTH — Despite heavy rain and a fierce campaign of misinformation by the state Labor government, 5000 teachers attended a rally on November 18 as part of their campaign for a new certified agreement.
The first full-day strike by Western Australian teachers in eight years involved half of WA's 20,000 public school teachers.
In the days leading up to the strike, state education minister Alan Carpenter, education director-general Paul Albert and WA Council of State Schools Organisations president Rob Fry all made statements in the West Australian condemning the strike as unnecessary and being against the interests of students. Carpenter has also claimed that as conciliation was beginning it was unnecessary for the teachers to strike.
However, as Dave Kelly, general secretary of WA branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU), told the rally, the government has been steadfastly refusing to enter negotiations with the AEU, although a framework for conciliation had been agreed to in August.
Under the pressure of the strike, the government approached the AEU and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to initiate conciliation on November 17, with meetings to occur on November 24, 25 and 28 if necessary.
The key issues identified by the AEU have been pay levels for beginning teachers; primary school teachers receiving equal levels of duties other than teaching (DOTT) as other teachers, to allow for class preparation; and reduction in class sizes.
Following Kelly's address, the teachers marched to Parliament House. Contrary to the government's hopes, the marchers received a warm response from passers-by, with motorists tooting and construction workers on city building sites cheering the marching teachers.
From Green Left Weekly, November 26, 2003.
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