Brumby refuses to meet teachers

February 29, 2008

Victoria's Labor premier, John Brumby, and education minister Lyn Kosky have refused to meet with the Australian Education Union (AEU) to resolve a deadlock in negotiations over a new enterprise bargaining agreement for teachers.

Teachers are frustrated that the government has refused to have any meaningful negotiations with the union. Government negotiators have been instructed not to deviate from the government's original offer of 3.25% pa. The AEU is demanding a 30% pay rise over three years to bring Victorian teachers in line with teachers in other states.

Teachers have responded to this stalemate with a campaign of half-day rolling strikes, starting with a protest outside Brumby's office by teachers from Maribyrnong, Broadmeadows, Sunbury and Melton on February 26. Out of 900 teachers in the region, 600-800 mobilised outside the premier's Glenroy office.

On February 27, teachers from Castlemaine, Kyneton, Maryborough and Bendigo went on strike and protested in Bendigo. Teachers from the inner-east, Doncaster, Warringal, Greater Waverley, East Gippsland and Sale took strike action on February 28.

Teachers were undeterred by an education department circular issued to schools that claimed the four-hour stoppages may not be "lawful".

"When this [ALP state] government was elected, we expected them to fix the problems of under-funding in education that were created by the [Coalition] Kennett government [defeated by Labor in 1999]", AEU state president Mary Bluett told the rally.

Bluett said that "unless the government increases teachers' pay" and "fixes up the problem of contract teaching", Victoria will continue to lose qualified teachers to other states.

Victoria has the highest percentage of teachers employed on short-term contracts of any state. The uncertainty of employment under short-term contracts is forcing many teachers to look for jobs in other industries.

Week two of the rolling strikes will involve teachers in Geelong, Stawell, Horsham, Wangaratta, Wodonga, Werribee, the inner-west and La Trobe Valley. The AEU has planned 35 rolling stoppages, which are set to continue until April unless teachers' demands are met.

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