Teachers vote for more strike action

April 19, 2008

Approximately 20,000 votes were submitted across NSW by teachers who attended stop-work Sky Channel meetings on April 8. Teachers went on strike over the state Labor government's refusal to negotiate a new staffing scheme that would ensure transfer rights for all teachers and guarantee qualified and trained teachers for all students in NSW public schools.

Maree O'Halloran, the president of the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF), announced on the day that "99% of teachers who attended the Sky Channel meeting voted to endorse a 24-hour strike on Thursday May 22, 2008".

Many of the venues reported a unanimous decision in favour of industrial action. At the Canterbury Leagues Club in Belmore, anger was expressed as teachers put their concerns to the meeting about the need for much more serious action. A motion calling for a minimum two-day strike earlier in the term was enthusiastically supported. Some teachers felt that the action proposed by the NSWTF was too limited in comparison with the severity of the measures being imposed by the state government.

This sentiment was echoed on April 10 by Canterbury-Bankstown teachers and parents who protested at Premier Morris Iemma's electoral office in Riverwood. Parents from Greenacre Public School addressed the demonstration, stating their opposition to the new staffing model and supporting the NSWTF's position that teachers should have the right to be represented on an interview panel by their union delegate. The new scheme proposed by the state government will mean the NSWTF is excluded from the selection process.

Since NSW education minister John Della Bosca ceased negotiations with the union, a consistent spate of strikes has occurred across the state in rural and regional areas, as well as in special needs schools and Sydney suburban schools.

The latest show of anger was on the last day of first term, when teachers at Hornsby South Public School stopped work to register their concerns about the phasing out of transfer points, which will remove incentives for staff to move schools. Augusta Munro, NSWTF representative at the school, said in an April 11 statement: "How would teachers in distant and hard to staff schools ever be able to move as staff would be even less willing to leave more desirable situations? Few teachers would apply if they had little chance of mobility."

Victorian teachers, also in dispute over teacher shortages, class sizes and salaries, have announced that they will take further industrial action in May to coincide with the national literacy and numeracy testing on May 13-15. A series of four-hour stopworks will occur over the three days. The deregulated, devolved staffing scheme that the NSW teachers reject has already been imposed on Victorian teachers, resulting in a pay disparity between the states of $15,000 per annum. The April 18 Melbourne Age reported that other states may join the strike: NT teachers have voted in favour of a May 13 stopwork, and in SA and WA the AEU and State School Teachers Union of WA will decide whether to join the action in the next few weeks. In WA, this follows an April 8 rally of 2000 SSTUWA members outside state parliament as part
of their campaign for a new collective agreement.

In NSW, teachers will be encouraged by the NSWTF to march on the state ALP conference on May 3, joining in cross-union solidarity to protest against the state government.

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