The Guardian 23 April, 2008
letterbox seat of Minister
The Australian Education Union (AEU) letterboxed Education Minister Bronwyn Pike’s Melbourne electorate last week, ahead of this week’s four-hour stop work rally, to be held outside the minister’s office.
Union members from across the state overwhelmingly endorsed a campaign of rolling regional four-hour stoppages throughout terms one and two at a mass meeting at Vodafone Arena on February 14.
AEU Victorian Branch President, Mary Bluett, said teachers from the inner city area were left with no choice but to stop work following the Education Minister and the government’s refusal to negotiate seriously over a new agreement.
"After close to 14 months of negotiations we still do not have a long-term plan for the future of public education in this state," Ms Bluett said.
"We have an increasing number of teachers leaving the system each year to teach in other states or in the private sector where they are offered better salary and conditions."
Victorian teachers have not had a pay rise in 18 months; they are the lowest paid in the nation. Those at the top of the scale receive 15 per cent less than their NSW counterparts, which equates to nearly $10,000 per year.
Results of a poll conducted recently indicate that the Victorian public overwhelmingly supports teachers in their campaign for better pay and conditions, with 85 percent of the believing that the state’s teachers should be paid the same as those in NSW.
"The government must put a revised offer on the table that will effectively address widespread teacher shortages, lower class sizes and lift teacher salaries, or our students will continue to miss out", Ms. Bluett said.
"We understand that next week’s rally will present difficulties for some parents and students and we will discuss this week how disruption can be minimised." However when it comes to investing in education, Victoria is at the bottom of the class.
The Victorian government continues to spend less per student on education than any other state or territory government — $891 per student below the national average.
Victoria has a teacher shortage and an increasing number of teachers leaving the system each year, which places pressure on schools and forces many teachers to work outside their area of qualification or expertise.
One in five teachers are currently on short-term contracts, which is particularly discouraging for those looking to enter the profession.
"Close to half of our public schools still have classes of over 25 students," Ms. Bluett said.