Members of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) will have a choice in this month's union elections. The current leadership is being challenged by the Teachers Alliance.
"Why keep voting for a leadership that has sold out?", asked Mary Merkenich, a Teachers Alliance activist and teacher at Mill Park Secondary College, who is challenging for president. "Teachers are not informed about the union's discussions with the state government on schools and their own working conditions", she told Green Left Weekly. "The AEU leadership platform claims to support public education, but it will be judged on its track record."
The leadership's attempt to ram through support for public-private partnerships (PPPs) is a case in point. After a newspaper article by president Mary Bluett supporting the investigation of PPPs to replace poor infrastructure, the Teachers Alliance moved that PPPs be discussed at the union's state conference. Bluett and secretary Brian Henderson opposed the motion and moved to have the AEU state council support the controversial funding scheme.
The Teachers Alliance argues that the final cost of such a move is likely to be more expensive than the option of funding through the public sector because the government can borrow more cheaply than the private sector and does not need to make a profit.
Standing for deputy president is Bronwen Jennings, who teaches in Geelong. She told GLW that contract teaching is still a big issue for members, with first-year teachers, 80% of whom are on contracts, still the most disadvantaged. "The level of contract teaching has not changed since the Kennett era", she said.