There are a lot of things that get me riled up, I’ll freely admit. I don’t often post political views on here, but this is something that I am too close to to simply ignore.
Many Victorian teachers are going on strike today over pay disputes with the Victorian government, something that I am in total support of.
Last year and this year a lot of EBAs (Enterprise Bargaining Agreements) expired and had to be renegotiated to set out terms and conditions of employment, including pay, for those working in the state public sector. The Liberal government wanted to play hardball, even though Victorian public sector workers are paid much less than our equivalents in other states. Across the board for all services (transport, police, health, education, public service) they offered a 2.5% pay rise per year for the life of the agreement, usually three years. It was set not even in line with CPI and so is effectively a pay cut. If we wanted to negotiate for more pay or better conditions, there have to be trade offs, either in productivity or worse conditions.
Working in allied health, my group doesn’t have a lot of media exposure or public support because nobody really knows what we do. We accepted an agreement that we knew wasn’t the fairest, but it wasn’t worth going into a long drawn out process of industrial action. Last time it happened, we came out worse than when we went in because we don’t have the pulling power. With many groups including teachers, nurses, and police all negotiating in the last year, we knew we wouldn’t get the support we needed. However, due to the government dragging their feet, what we agreed to over 6 months ago still hasn’t been implemented. I’m still waiting for the agreement to pass and waiting patiently for my backpay, most of which will go to tax. Am I bitter about it? Definitely, but this isn’t a battle that we can win.
So what does this have to do with teaching if I am not even in that profession? To me teachers are much more in the public eye. They have a lot more public support and lots more impact when industrial action does happen. It may be an inconvenience for some parents, but maybe this will raise public awareness of what is happening to professions that deserve more than what they get.
It’s also an issue of broken promises. Liberals won a lot of votes for promising things that they won’t deliver on, such as bringing teacher’s pay in line with other states. A 30% pay rise over 3 years seems like a lot that the union is calling for, but people forget that it’s a negotiation. There has to be a middle ground of compromise that both parties can agree on, but 2.5% seems to be a number the government is sticking with across all professions.
Their proposed agreement centres on performance based pay, which sounds great in theory but how exactly is that measured? In sales it’s easy to count what products you’ve sold. It’s tangible. Teaching and learning is not so simple. Different students have different strengths and weaknesses and basing it on NAPLAN results is a joke. Just because a child can take a test, doesn’t mean they’ve actually learned anything useful. Children do not come into the school system with the same abilities, intelligence, parents, geographic location, wealth, social and emotional experiences. You cannot compare apples to everything else in the world. There are too many variables that are difficult to measure and fit into a one size fits all cookie cutter. An accurate and standardised measurement of performance is an impossible task.
Just as a side note, the base salary for a Victorian member of parliament is about $130,000. On top of that they a variety of perks such as travel expenses paid for. Yet, they seem to be doing very little for what they earn. At least their pay isn’t performance based, otherwise they would be earning as much as the rest of us do.
Many will argue that teachers have it easy with all the holidays and working hours, but it is not that simple and there is a lot of work done outside of working hours that happens with any profession. There are some teachers that are lazy and under qualified or not suited to the profession, but all teachers shouldn’t be punished for the minority that happen in any profession. Some will blame the previous government for accumulating so much debt or the economic climate we live in.
There are a million reasons why teachers shouldn’t get a pay rise, but for me the reason they should is because they are an important part of society, our children’s future, and mostly because it’s the fair thing to do.
So support and try to understand the predicament that Victorian teachers are in. The current government has already cut costs to public services such as transport and health, but maybe education will get the recognition and pay that they deserve. After all, what use is voting for a government if they can’t keep their election promises? We all expect it to happen, but shouldn’t politicians be held accountable for breaching their promises to the electorate?
I will be writing to my member of parliament about this issue and suggest you do the same. A quick google search will find you the details of your member.