SA education workers plan industrial action

February 28, 1996

By Adam Hanieh ADELAIDE — More than 5000 education workers packed Memorial Drive Tennis court on February 23 in the largest education mass meeting ever held in SA. Members of the South Australian Institute of Teachers (SAIT) overwhelmingly endorsed the stoppage; 400 schools around the state closed for half a day, and regional mass meetings joined with the central stoppage. A representative from the WA Teachers Union detailed the long struggle by teachers there against the Court Liberal government. He warned that solidarity between teachers was crucial in confronting government attacks. The main discussion centred on the government's enterprise bargaining offer of a 12% wage rise. SAIT industrial officer Angus Story explained that the 12% included two $8 a week safety net increases. The offer would include an immediate 5.7% increase (without the safety net rises) and two further 2% increases over the next two years. These increases cover a seven-year period: teachers have not received a wage rise since 1991 — despite productivity increases. Story also criticised the proposed two-year enterprise agreement, which would force SAIT workers to forgo any opportunity to pursue another award. If the agreement were ended (through either ministerial decree or a majority vote of employees) then employees' wages would fall to the level before the agreement. Employees would face a prolonged period of low wages while negotiating. The offer also says nothing about class sizes and workloads, issues which teachers have repeatedly stressed cannot be separated from a wage rise. The mass meeting agreed to support SAIT's claim for a federal award by a "vigorous program of industrial action" beginning with rolling stoppages in weeks six, seven and eight of the school term, and a full day statewide stoppage in week 11 unless an acceptable federal award offer has been made.

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