More than 20,000 Australian teachers begin strike (photo)
June 7, 2012
About 20,000 primary and secondary public school teachers in Victoria are expected to strike tomorrow. The Australian Education Union (AEU) has organised the industrial action, including a mass meeting and a rally to parliament, following a breakdown in its negotiations on a new enterprise bargaining agreement with the state Liberal government.
Before being elected in 2010, Premier Ted Baillieu promised to make Victorian teachers, currently among the lowest paid in Australia, the highest paid. Immediately after taking office, however, he junked his pledge, along with a commitment not to impose any public sector sackings. His state government has imposed a 2.5 percent wage ceiling on all public sector workers, a significant real pay cut.
The government has also issued a list of so-called productivity demands. It wants already overworked teachers in larger secondary schools to fit in an extra hour of classroom teaching each week, and hopes to eliminate the current system of near-automatic progression up the pay scale. Whereas now 99.8 percent of teachers receive annual increment increases, the government wants a cap of 80 percent. This is aimed at reducing the government’s wages bill and intimidating the workforce. Any teacher deemed to be “underperforming” may never move up the pay scale, which for new teachers currently begins at an annual salary of just under $57,000.
The Liberal government is also demanding the introduction of an across-the-board “performance pay” system. It wants 30 percent of teachers to receive wage bonuses of between 6 to 10 percent and another 40 percent of teachers to receive a 1.4 percent bonus, based on meeting targets to lift “classroom standards”. The purpose is to divide the teaching workforce and further entrench the federal Labor government’s regressive standardised testing regime—the National Assessment Program–Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) scheme. Performance bonuses will likely be tied to NAPLAN results, leading to more “teaching to the test” rote learning.
Why do countries continually put the flourishing minds of students in the hands of teachers who are treated so horribly by the same system?