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Issue #1608      August 28, 2013

WA government axes 500 jobs from education

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has condemned the decision by the Western Australian government to axe 500 jobs from education – 150 jobs from the central office, 150 specialist anaphylaxis assistants and another 200 education assistants.

“These cuts will adversely impact on students across the board but will be particularly felt by those students with special needs who rely on the support of education assistants,” Gabe Gooding, NTEU WA Division secretary, said.

“To add insult to injury, when the Minister for Education, Peter Collier, was challenged on his statement of four days ago that education job losses were not on his agenda, he said he ‘was thinking about teachers’.

“We at the NTEU know only too well that tertiary education is not just about academics but depends on the incredible work of general and professional staff so we recognise that schools can’t run without education assistants and support staff. It is outrageous that a state government minister would completely disregard the value of these workers,” Gooding said.

Gooding said that at the very same time that the WA government continues to refuse to participate in the federal government’s (Gonski) schools reform package, claiming that the $920 million on offer is not enough, it is slashing the capacity of the education department to deliver quality education in WA.

Hundreds of university staff and students rallied in Forest Place in Perth last week to protest the fact that the schools reform package is to be funded in part by cuts to universities.

“In WA that will mean $155 million lost to higher education, plus higher student debt for WA students and their families, but we have heard not one word from the Premier in support of WA universities and their staff,” Gooding said.

“It is shameful that the WA government has ignored the plight of the state’s universities and it’s made all the worse by the fact that the Premier is, at the same time, slashing schools staff. This is more evidence that the Coalition cannot be trusted on education”.

Meanwhile, the NTEU last week joined forces with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) for a National Day of Action on August 20 to champion the cause of publicly-funded and properly-funded higher education in the lead-up to the Federal election.

Seven out the 10 NTEU Branches that took industrial action over stalled enterprise bargaining are in Victoria: Deakin University, La Trobe University, RMIT, Swinburne University, Victoria University, University of Ballarat and University of Melbourne.

Victorian Division secretary, Dr Colin Long, said: “Universities have been riding on the backs of staff, with big increases in student numbers. This is causing great strain in the sector. Our members have had enough.

“We want manageable workloads and improved career paths, as well as more secure work. Education quality will decline if classes sizes keep increasing and if we don’t turn around the level of casualisation. The Labor government cuts are making a bad situation worse.”

Higher education in Australia stands at a tipping point, according to Jeannie Rea, national president of the NTEU.

“Over the past three years, the Labor government has slashed over $4 billion from higher education with the complicity of the Coalition,” she said.

“This cannot go on. Properly funded universities and properly supported students are essential for a smart future for Australia.”

Rea said the NTEU, NUS and CAPA were also calling on the school and TAFE teachers and students, parents, employers, unionists and other members of the community to join the campaign to make education, including higher education, a big issue in this year’s federal election.

“When we call for education for all – we mean from early childhood to higher degrees. Higher education should be available regardless of background or circumstance, but the costs of education keep increasing,” Rea said.

Next article – The struggle for refugee rights continues

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