NSW TEACHERS will continue rolling industrial action unless the New South Wales government sits down and negotiates on proposed changes to the school staffing and transfer system.
In late May over 2000 teachers rallied in front of the Education Department’s headquarters in Sydney’s CBD as part of a state-wide 24-hour strike over the decision to allow principals to hire staff directly. The stop-work action involved over 40,000 teachers across NSW. Teachers are also seeking a 5 per cent per annum pay rise. The government has made a below-inflation 2.5 per cent offer.
The government’s changes undermine an incentive scheme, under which teachers are encouraged to work in regional areas in exchange for a placement on the top of the transfers list for a more desirable posting later in their careers.
The government says the formula used to allocate the number of teachers to schools will not change and the transfer system will never be dismantled.
The reality is that sought-after schools have few positions available and these will now be subject to interview at the discretion of principals and area directors while difficult-to-staff schools with high staff turnover will find teachers less willing to take up placements.
The instability of the new system is already being felt, with schools such as rural Kyogle High taking stop work action as the Department refused to allow a teacher’s representative on the selection panel for a new Principal. Such “reforms” will eventually erode job security and the NSW Teachers Federation’s ability to force the government to deliver on improvements such as reduced class sizes.
Federation president Maree O’Halloran told the rally Education Minister John Della Bosca should not have imposed the changes.
“(He is) a minister who tells us to suck it and see,” she said. “Well, not with our students, not with our community and not with our professional lives.”
A large section of the crowd were TAFE teachers who were angry that permanent jobs will be offered to teachers without university qualifications.
Economic rationalist logic
Della Bosca exposed the market-driven rationale of the staffing changes with his media statement:
“In the end, making the right savings to get the right dollars into incentives is one of the issues that we need to work on,” he said.
The NSW Government is also now facing rising discontent from other public sector workers such as nurses, who are calling on the Government to improve on its offers of 2.5 per cent per annum.
The Iemma government’s state budget, handed down in early June, anticipates a healthy surplus for the coming year based on holding down the wages of public sector workers below inflation.
The NSW Teachers Federation State Council will vote on June 14 on whether to hold another state-wide strike early next term to build on rolling stoppages also commencing in June.
Unions NSW should call joint union action, to build on the militancy displayed by teachers, electricity workers and firefighters, to push the state government away from its market-driven policies of electricity privatisation, school staffing and below-inflation pay rises.
See page nine for more information on the campaign against electrcity privatisation
By John MorrisSecretary Canterbury-Bankstown branch, NSW Teachers Federation