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Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

campaign The loudest

campaign The loudest message THE list of strike-closed schools that Mary Bluett read out was so long the Auslan interpreter gave up and signed “etcetera, etcetera”. All seats in the 11,000 capacity Hisense Arena were taken. Members from Gippsland rose in the dead of night and drove through floods. Others from Shepparton got caught in traffic and found the doors locked, house full. To call the June 7 stopwork rally a success would be putting it mildly. It was the first such rally to be broadcast live to the satellite rally in Mildura — and the first time that a rally was also organised in Wodonga. And it was the first marked by social media, with the volume of traffic generated by teachers and supporters so great that the union’s twitter tag, @AEUVictoria, was among the most used on Twitter across Australia that day. Members commented on the debates, posted pictures and read messages of support from parents, nurses and others. When a picture of the march taken from an office block appeared on the AEU’s Facebook page, 1100 people gave it the thumbs up within 48 hours. Those at the rally showed their determination to take on the Baillieu Government — not just over its derisory pay offer to teachers but its attempts to divide the profession through performance pay and its vandalism to public education from the axing of student support to its cuts to VCAL and TAFE. Members agreed to a long and committed campaign, including further stopworks and, for the first time in years, bans and limitations, which were not possible during the last pay dispute because of the Howard Government’s WorkChoices legislation. Branch president Mary Bluett told the crowd, including those watching on screens outside the arena and members in Mildura: “By your action today, you have put Ted Baillieu on notice. “Premier, Minister (Hall), you promised, your word. We teach our students about values and a key value is ‘don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep’. You are judged on your word. Premier, Minister, you have failed the values test.” Members heartily applauded a call for an end to the widespread use of contracts, especially for new teachers. A call from the platform for members on contracts to raise their arms brought a shamefully wide show of hands. Bluett’s most scathing comments were for the Government’s performance pay and workload proposals. “Secondary teachers would increase their average face-to-face teaching by one hour a week. No time allowance for jobs like career counselling, year-level coordinator or curriculum leader. That will save the Government money by reducing 1000 secondary teachers from the payroll, probably by getting rid of 1000 contract teachers. 12 aeu news | june 2012

campaign AEU members did their union proud with the biggest stopwork in the union’s history on June 7. Nic Barnard and Sian Watkins report. Photos by Meredith O’Shea. “And, as if they didn’t have enough incentive to leave the profession, the Government proposes that only 80% of teachers on the incremental scale would progress each year. “They want us to work harder … (But) all teachers work beyond the 38 hours in the agreement.” She said a survey of 200 primary and secondary teachers found that one-third worked 15 hours or more at home each week, and one in 10 worked 20 hours’ overtime. A call was made, but rejected, for a second stop work in the first month of Term 3. Heard sympathetically, it was rejected after AEU leadership spoke of the need for campaign flexibility and its desire to hold the next rally in the bigger Rod Laver Arena. A handful of members, led by Will Marshall from Footscray City College, wanted to tear up the resolution and instead opt for a national grassroots campaign opposing federal and state education policies. Members comprehensively dismissed this proposal, although it prevented the ultimate vote for action being unanimous. The same group also tried to push the rally entertainment — a rap by teacher Kevin Hunt and a song by Melbourne singer Henry Wagons — to the end of the agenda. Comments were later made about frivolous diversions but the enthusiastic reception from a foot-stomping singing crowd suggested this view was not widely held. With Melbourne’s locked-out members leading the march, the crowd set off for Parliament House where it was greeted by parents and unions, including the Australian Nursing Federation, veterans of their own clash with the Baillieu Government earlier this year. Nurses’ union leader Lisa Fitzpatrick voiced the solidarity and gratitude of nurses for the support given by teachers during their dispute, and summed up the importance of the action by teachers. “You must ensure that (Baillieu’s) promise is delivered. Each and every day we entrust our most precious possession — our children — into your hands, and we thank you for that.” ◆ Maths and science teacher James Green from Bellarine Secondary (right) taught in contract positions for three years before securing a permanent teaching position. He joined the stopwork because the Government’s 2.5% pay offer was inadequate. Yet to pay off a $20,000 HECS debt, he says he has “mates who went into the trades and are now earning a lot more than I am. I have a friend in a roof plumbing business who employs three people. He’d make twice the money I do.” His friend, Damian Van Wyk (left) from Drysdale Primary School, is on his second 12-month teaching contract. Referring to the Baillieu Government’s pre-election promise to make Victorian teachers the highest paid in the country, Van Wyk said: “When you make a promise to people, you must stick to it, particularly when you promised something to win government.” Janis White, from Ringwood Heights Primary School, whose granddaughter Ellia, 18 months, was at her first stop work. www.aeuvic.asn.au 13

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