More than 20,000 Victorian teachers went out on strike on Thursday 7 June, and more than 11,000 tried to cram into the Hisense Arena for the mass strike meeting—but there was not enough room. Five hundred had to stay outside and watch the meeting on a screen. It was the biggest teachers’ strike in Victorian history.
The turn out shows the anger at Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu’s attacks on public school teachers, but also a confidence built by the Victorian Nurses successful campaign to defend their conditions from Baillieu.
Like he did with the nurses, Baillieu is offering teachers no more than a 2.5 per cent pay rise (less than inflation) without productivity increases. The productivity increases he has suggested include performance pay and an extra hour of face-to-face teaching for secondary school teachers.
Meredith Pearce, deputy president of the Victorian Australian Education Union (AEU), put forward a motion at the mass meeting calling for a campaign of bans, limitations and more stop works to secure more than 2.5 per cent without the productivity increases. But the membership is ready to fight for more. An amendment from the AEU members activist group Teachers Alliance called for another stop work within the first month of Term 3, and it was met with massive support.
The amendment was only defeated when Branch Secretary Brian Henderson committed to a joint stop work meeting with teachers and the atrociously underpaid Education Support Staff that would fill the Rod Laver Arena, an even bigger venue.
With such a strong show of strength by the membership, some teachers were commenting that we must make more of all the demands in our log of claims.
Our log of claims includes fewer face-to-face teaching hours, smaller class sizes, fewer meetings and an end to teachers having to rent their work computers. Michael O’Reilly from the Teachers Alliance told the meeting “we’re not all here because we want the same conditions plus a bit more pay—we’re all here because our conditions are already appalling. We need to fight for better, not the status quo.”
Victorian teachers need to keep the pressure on to make sure the joint stop work in Term 3 happens. The confidence of members was boosted by the huge turn out and the strident debate for more immediate action, and we can use this confidence to win on pay and conditions.
Lucy Honan, AEU member