Teachers take action nation-wide
As The Guardian goes to press public school teachers around the country are preparing to take action on September 17 in defence of Australia's public school system. This action will include a historic co- ordinated strike across three States — expected to involve more than 70,000 teachers — that will target Labor Government Treasurers accused of colluding to keep wages down in the face of a national teacher shortage. Teachers in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia have co-ordinated the 24- hour stoppages and nationwide protests as part of the Australian Education Union's (AEU) efforts to make education a top-level national priority. There will be range of political protests in all States and meetings of NSW and Victorian teachers along the state border. The action, which comes as teachers in NSW commence a case for a 25 percent wage rise, was sparked by the recent meeting of State Treasurers where a plan to limit pay rises for all public sector workers was mapped out. AEU Federal President Pat Byrne said the state and territory governments' wage suppression is simply unacceptable, particularly when the Australian education system is currently in the midst of teacher shortage crisis. "As a result of the lack of financial and professional incentives provided by state and territory governments, up to 50 per cent of new teachers are on record as saying they do not intend to be teaching within 10 years", Byrne said. "By 2005, Deans of Education estimate that there will be a shortage of 5000 teachers in primary and secondary schools. By the end of the decade, the Education Ministers' research shows that this shortage will have increased to at least 20,000." NSW Teachers' Federation president Maree O'Halloran called the national action unprecedented — and an important wake-up call to the entire nation. "It's totally irresponsible of the state governments to be meeting and colluding to hold down real wage growth of teachers at the very time when they should be working out ways to make the profession grow", O'Halloran says "It is absolutely outrageous that we have been told that if we get more than three per cent per year they are threatening to punish our students by cutting the public education budget." TAFE Teachers get in on act Meanwhile, TAFE teachers in NSW have voted unanimously for industrial action of at least 24 hours, early in Term 4, if the Carr Government does not halt its attacks on TAFE. NSW TAFE Teachers Association secretary Linda Simon says teachers are concerned about the effects that increased TAFE fees will have next year in pricing qualifications needed to enter the workforce beyond the reach of many young people. The teachers also noted with increasing concern the results of the survey conducted by the NSW Council for Adult Literacy and Numeracy that showed that 37 per cent of those currently in such courses would not be able to continue studies to improve basic skills levels. "Council is angry that the Carr Labor Government does not value the great TAFE system in this state, and continues to undermine TAFE by cutting budgets, and proposing a restructure that attacks the integrity of TAFE", Ms Simon said. "TAFE teachers are passionate about the education and training they provide for a wide variety of students, and will not allow this education to be undermined. If this means that we have to strike to highlight our determination, then we will do so."