On November 21, up to 10,000 Victorian teachers went on strike, travelling from around the state to fill the Vodafone Arena in Melbourne. Around 150 schools were closed as a result of the industrial action. The teachers are calling for a 10% per annum pay rise over the next three years.
To conduct protected industrial action, teachers had to vote in a secret ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. A massive 91% of participants in the AEC ballot voted for an unlimited number of 24-hour stoppages.
The stopwork meeting rejected the Victorian Labor government's offer of a 3.25% pay rise each year, and resolved to hold a statewide strike on February 14 if the teachers' demands are not met.
The meeting also called for career structures, workloads and class sizes to be addressed. A resolution passed by the meeting condemned the government's offer as "an insult which would continue to leave Victorian teachers the lowest paid in the nation".
Premier John Brumby has condemned teachers' demands as "irresponsible". "I'd certainly be satisfied that the conditions in Victorian schools are the best in Australia", the November 21 Herald Sun quoted Brumby as saying.
The Australian Education Union's (AEU) Victorian branch released the results of a poll conducted in the lead-up to the stopwork meeting that indicated there was widespread support for the teachers' industrial campaign. Ninety-three per cent of participants either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that Victorian teachers shouldn't be paid less than teachers in other states and territories; 81% of people polled supported increasing teachers' salaries to attract more people to the profession. Seventy-one per cent supported teachers taking industrial action.
Commenting on the results of the poll, released by the AEU on November 19, Victorian branch president Mary Bluett explained: "Victorian teachers at the top of the scale receive 11% less than their NSW colleagues, which equates to over $7000 per year. In January 2008, this figure will rise to 15%. In addition, nearly half of our public schools still have classes of over 25 students and one in five teachers are currently on short-term contracts."