Teachers plan big strikes

More than 30,000 Victorian teachers and 40,000 Queensland teachers are set to strike in September and October, in defence of teacher pay and conditions under threat from conservative state governments.

In Victoria, teachers and support staff plan to make September 5 the state's biggest public school strike. The Australian Education Union's (AEU) Victoria state council voted unanimously for a 24-hour stoppage, which will close hundreds of government and Catholic schools.

Support staff are expected to take part for the first time, resulting in a likely strike even bigger than the huge June 7 action.

Teachers are calling for a 30% pay rise over three years which would bring them into line with better paid states. The government is offering just 2.5%, breaking an election promise to make the state's teachers the best paid in Australia.

The strike is also aimed at opposing growing class sizes and increased workloads.

Casualisation of teaching is also a crucial issue. AEU Victorian President Mary Bluett said almost half of new teachers were on short-term contracts.

In Queensland, more than 40,000 teachers are set to strike in mid October.

Teachers, already fuming about oversized classes, have been further angered by mass public service sackings. The Campbell Newman government confirmed it has ruled out limiting class sizes as part of any agreement with the teachers.

A militant response is expected to the ballot for industrial action, with more than 90% of teachers rejecting the last enterprise bargaining agreement put by the government.

The strike may test new powers given by Newman to the Queensland attorney-general, allowing the government to force striking public servants back to work.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said while “Queensland unions do not have a history of defying these sort of directives”, the new laws “take us deep into new territory”.

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