By Adam Hanieh
ADELAIDE — South Australian teachers are gearing up for a confrontation with the Liberal state government over enterprise bargaining. The government has launched a campaign of misinformation in an attempt to get teachers to accept its enterprise offer.
The minister for education and children's services, Rob Lucas, has claimed that the government is offering a $35 per week pay rise. In a letter sent to teachers, Lucas said "The government's latest offer includes $15 immediately, $10 in July 1995 and a further $10 in July 1996 ... that means $35 per week in the next 18 months."
The fine print, however, reveals that the immediate $15 per week includes the recent $8 safety net increase from the national wage case, making the immediate offer only $7.
Teachers had until February 3 to vote on the offer, with the South Australian Institute of Teachers (SAIT) urging rejection.
The government's education policy has recently come under the spotlight for other reasons. Last year $22 million was cut from the education budget, and this year it is rumoured that a further $18 million will go.
Having cut teacher numbers and slashed conditions, the government is now planning to cope with the inevitable result by establishing "special education centres" for students who have behavioural problems and privatising school support staff who currently help such students.
The real intention of the government's enterprise offer was revealed in another letter from the Department of Education and Children's Services, which stated that any further wage rises were conditional on "real productivity outcomes". Teachers are being told to put up with increased class sizes, more hours and cuts in support services — all in the hope of a conditional pay rise!
SAIT points out that NSW teachers recently won a larger wage increase with a campaign of industrial action.
To bludgeon teachers into accepting its offer, the government has launched a scare campaign against SAIT. In a letter headed "Excess pay rise will mean education cuts," the government stated that for every $10 per week that might be won by SAIT, there would be education cuts of "... $10 million or the equivalent of 200 teachers".
This hasn't deterred SAIT, which is planning the next phase of its "Revalue Education Campaign". In the coming weeks its branches will be discussing possible industrial action such as workload limits and pre-budget stoppages.