Thousands of New South Wales high school and primary school teachers stopped work for two hours on November 2. They voted overwhelmingly to reject the Coalition O’Farrell state government’s salary offer.
Ninety-nine percent of teachers at the stopwork meetings also voted to hold a 24-hour stopwork action on November 29 if the government refused to make a reasonable salary offer.
Teachers will consider further industrial action at the start of 2012 if a reasonable offer is not made by then.
Teachers rejected the government’s 2.5% yearly pay rise. This amounts to a real wage cut, as inflation is running at 3.5%.
The offer is also tied to negotiations around the government’s Local Schools Local Decisions policy. This policy aims to replace permanent teacher positions with fixed-term contracts. It also shifts the responsibility to staff schools from the government to local schools.
Most NSW TAFE teachers were advised by the NSW Teachers Federation not to take part in the November 2 stopwork action for fear of breaching federal industrial laws. But some TAFE teachers who were not rostered on to work were able to take part in the meetings.
A danger of underpaying teachers is that it risks creating a teacher shortage. Many teachers from the baby boomer generation are due for retirement and fewer young people are choosing teaching as a profession.
Teachers federation president Bob Lipscome said: “No parent will thank the O’Farrell government if it succeeds in making teaching such an unattractive proposition that it becomes impossible to ensure there is a properly qualified teacher in front of their child's class.”
On November 1, Justice Trish Kavanagh of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission ruled the government’s salary offer was inconsistent with its stage wages policy. She said because the offer was made in late October, it did not allow a reasonable bargaining period.
The decision is a slap in the face to the O’Farrell government, which made an election pledge of openness, transparency and good faith bargaining.