Teacher bans to bite more deeply

SCHOOL fetes, parent information evenings, music, inter-school sport, excursions and marking are among the activities that will be banned this year if they fall outside the 38-hour working week as teachers ramp up their industrial action.

The new Victorian president of the Australian Education Union has vowed not to settle for less than a 12 per cent pay rise over three years, as the protracted pay dispute with the state government enters its third year.

Meredith Peace has taken over the helm of the high-profile union at a critical time, with teachers to escalate their industrial campaign by refusing to work more than a 38-hour week from the first day of term one. Another strike is planned for February 14.

While school camps will be one of the most obvious casualties of teachers refusing to work unpaid overtime, extracurricular activities including working bees, school theatre productions and debating will also be affected.

Ms Peace, who replaced long-serving leader Mary Bluett on January 1, said the union had warned early in term four that unpaid overtime would be banned this year if the government continued to stonewall.

''We wanted to make sure the government and the community knew what we would be forced to do if the government continued in this deadlock,'' she said.

Ms Peace has vowed to stick to the compromise offer of 12 per cent over three years made by the union late last year - a significant shift from the 30 per cent rise originally sought.

Asked if she would be prepared to settle for less, Ms Peace said: ''We put that as a settlement offer. We think it is fair and reasonable and the government should come to the party.''

She said police had received an annual pay rise equivalent to about 4.2 per cent a year, and the government had struck deals with the CPSU for similar amounts for its members.

''And yet they continue to say to us, 'No more than 2.5 per cent and performance pay.' It's not good enough,'' she said.

Negotiations between the union and the government are at an impasse after talks broke down yet again late last year.

A government spokeswoman said the bans were hurting kids, families and parents.

''We have put a fair offer on the table. It would make our best teachers the best paid in the country with around 70 per cent of teachers paid bonuses in addition to an increase of 2.5 per cent. With new leadership at the helm, it's time for the union to come back to the negotiating table and resolve the dispute.''

Ms Peace acknowledged that some aspects of the industrial action had upset parents, most notably the ban on comments in report cards.

''I think that ban was really important to highlight to parents and the broader community the large amount of work that teachers actually do outside the paid working week.''

In its state budget submission to the government, the union says the completion of a new industrial agreement is an urgent priority to ensure a high-quality workforce is maintained.

Ms Peace said the union had taken a different approach to its budget submission this year, asking the government to repair the damage it had done over two years, such as the cuts to TAFE and the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.

''In previous years we have looked ahead and said, 'This is what we want public education to be like.'''

Ms Peace has worked for the Australian Education Union since 2001, including three years as Victorian deputy president. She has also taught at Wanganui Park Secondary College and Kew High School and worked at the Melbourne Zoo's education centre.


This story Teacher bans to bite more deeply first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.