FOR THE third time in 18 months, 30,000 Victorian teachers and school support staff showed their willingness to fight Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu’s attacks with a statewide strike and stopwork meeting.

More than 10,000 teachers and support staff packed out the Hisense arena before marching on the Victorian parliament. The mood at the rally and march was defiant and showed a real preparedness to take further action.

Baillieu’s threats of performance pay, a hatred of contract work, and a general discontent over working conditions has spurred teachers into sustaining the campaign.

Bans on reports, school camps and work outside the 38-hour week, have kept sub-branches actively engaged with the campaign, despite its slow pace.

The leadership’s motion for regional rolling stoppages was passed with enthusiasm. But a more militant resolution for a 48-hour strike in second term, to coincide with NAPLAN testing won at least a quarter of the mass meeting.

The vote showed there is a solid base on which to build for more militant action in the future. More explanation of why the Victorian teachers campaign should be combined with a fight against NAPLAN could have generated even more support. The officials opposed the 48-hour strike amendment saying, “What has NAPLAN got to with our campaign?” But NAPLAN is at the centre of a testing regime that both Gillard and Baillieu want to use to drive their business model of education into classrooms.

A campaign that isn’t afraid to take unprotected industrial action, or to make “illegal” demands (demanding a cap on class sizes is considered illegal!) can push back the attacks and secure the pay and conditions that Victorian public school teachers and support staff deserve.

Unprotected industrial action by the nurses in early 2012 did not result in any fines—and the nurses won.

By Lucy Honan

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