NSW teachers' strike cancelled by union

Issue 

After a year-long industrial dispute, the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) has reached an agreement for a new award with the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET).

The NSWTF had planned a 48-hour strike for the start of the school year, but on January 20 the NSWTF executive decided not to proceed with the action. The next day, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission made a recommendation to implement a new three-year award for school and TAFE teachers.

The main areas of dispute concerned salaries and the removal of the staffing transfer system.

The abolition of the transfer system would have allowed principals to advertise positions, giving them greater power to hire staff and meant a teacher had to apply for an interview in order to change schools.

The transfer system had ensured schools throughout NSW had qualified staff, and also allowed teachers working in rural schools to transfer back into the city.

While the new deal seems to have retained the transfer system — albeit in a "reformed" capacity — it is, as yet, unclear to what extent principals will be able to bypass service transfers and proceed straight to advertising positions.

NSWTF was also seeking a 15% pay increase over three years, in line with inflation, but settled for 12.48% with trade-offs. The DET website claims the increase is "in line with the Government's wages policy of only approving wage increases above 2.5% if they are linked to employee related cost savings and reforms".

The trade-offs include a reduction of sick leave to 15 days annually, changes to workers' compensation, removal of travel allowance for casual teachers and exclusion of the Permanent Employment Program designed to get casual and temporary teachers into permanent positions.

The graduate recruitment quota is reduced from a maximum of 1000 positions to 450 each staffing year.

There is also no guarantee that a NSWTF representative has to be present on selection committees, ensuring panel accountability. Instead, the new agreement states a "teacher representative elected by and from the Teaching Service staff at the school" will be present.

Changes have also been made to TAFE conditions, although they are not finalised and details remain sketchy. It appears some trade-offs to workload have been made for permanent and temporary teachers.

NSWTF will present the agreement to members for endorsement on February 6.

[Vivian Messimeris is a member of the NSWTF state council and a Socialist Alliance activist.]

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