Women teachers' union conference
By Julia Perkins
PERTH — Approximately 65 women — teachers, unionists, parents and interested individuals — attended the State School Teachers Union (SSTU) women's conference on May 27 to discuss discrimination against women in the workplace and how the union could address it.
Contributions from the panel and the floor informed us that at TAFE, approximately 93% of male teachers hold permanent positions compared to less than 23% of female teachers.
One anecdote highlighted this discrimination. A female teacher currently working for 21 hours per week in a "casual" position at a TAFE college asked her employer to be classified as working a "fractional load" (anything above nine hours), which would entitle her to the same benefits as permanent employees. The employer told her that if she made this request he would decrease her hours to below nine.
Negotiating an individual workplace agreement with an employer in a culture which tolerates sexism is especially difficult for young women entering the work force. The role of the union therefore becomes paramount.
Conference participants also discussed the double burden of family and work which women are still expected to juggle, agreeing that the "super woman" ideal places unfair and unrealistic expectations on women workers.
Racism within the education system was also discussed. Many schools do not include any items in the curriculum associated with Aboriginal history and culture. Education around Aboriginal identity and culture is also stifled by state government directives such as the one which prohibits any discussion of the Mabo issue within schools.
The conference reaffirmed the important role the SSTU had in voicing the concerns of women workers and campaigning on them.