The leadership of the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) has sold its members a dud pay offer. During a fortnight long propaganda barrage, they managed to convince 82 per cent of the membership that retreat was in fact some sort of victory.
The argument went along the lines that, “this is the best we can do. The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission will maul us (although this is the very same commission that teachers were told gave us a ‘good’ outcome last EB) and there could be no campaign after the commission’s decision.”
Many teachers, those on pay bands 2 to 10, will receive the 12.5 per cent that only a couple of months ago had been condemned by the leadership as inadequate and unjust. Those who have been teaching for 13 years will be eligible for a new senior teacher salary. However there is no agreement about how teachers will access this new level. The Australian newspaper celebrated the new level as a bold performance-based pay initiative. If this is correct, it will be step backwards.
The deal apparently will cost the government around $120 million more than the original offer. But rather than distribute this pay evenly across all pay levels the government and the QTU leadership relied upon the self-interest of senior teachers to ignore the inadequate pay increase for bands 2 to 10 teachers. Many of these, mostly younger, teachers are already struggling. They are also the group who are most prone to leaving the profession. The announcement that Queensland teachers will have “the highest beginning teacher salary in Australia” is a sleight of hand. It won’t happen until July 2011, when it will be just $6 ahead of a NSW teacher and ignores relativities after that.
In the last QTU newsflash, the leadership told us that the arbitration case being argued in the commission relied on comparing the value of teachers here and interstate. It played down the possibility of success by saying that NSW TAFE teachers were smashed in the NSW commission. However, it neglected to explain that NSW TAFE teachers are taking industrial action against the commission’s decision.
In the middle of this campaign teachers went on strike and thousands attended defiant mass meetings. But this momentum was squandered once the QTU leadership opted for their favoured strategies, to concentrate all key decisions within the leadership and their legal advisers, and go cap in hand to the education minister to plead our case.
This strategy will not equip us to respond to the dangerous neo-liberal plans for education being pushed nationally by Julia Gillard.
By Adrian Skerritt

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