WA teachers fight for wage claim
By Robert Graham
PERTH — State school teachers in WA have launched work bans on voluntary after-hours activities in support of a 20% pay increase. A 600-strong mass meeting of the State School Teachers Union (SSTU) last year gave a firm mandate to this campaign, and the bans have been well supported across the state.
The bans include after-school activities, which have long been done voluntarily, in what amounted to exploitation of teachers' time and working conditions.
The issue is a hot one, and has provoked a string of high school student protests. While initially student strikes were against the bans, the students have swung against the government as the link between their own quality of education and a poorly paid, under-resourced education work force becomes clearer.
Speaking to striking students at one suburban high school, SSTU general secretary Peter Quinn described the long hours, voluntary work and cramped, overcrowded conditions in which teachers were expected to work.
WA teachers have the lowest salaries in the country, only slightly better than the average wage, and have had no real increase for four years, despite a greatly increased workload. Quinn suggested to the students that none of them take up teaching as a career.
While declaring preparedness to listen to teachers' concerns, education minister Norman Moore has stated that no negotiations regarding the wage claim will take place unless the bans are lifted. The Education Department has also placed restrictions on SSTU organisers and officials entering schools.