2000: Enterprise bargaining campaign
The 2000 enterprise bargaining campaign was a testament to the tenacity and determination of teachers and the Union, and was significant through the results achieved.
The need to restore teacher salaries in comparison with other professions and the requirement to improve a range of teaching and learning conditions were significant factors in mobilising and engaging members and led to the success of the campaign. This was a campaign with a number of significant stages, including member ballots, work bans, stop work meetings, strike action and appearances in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
The campaign commenced in July 1999 with the formulation of the QTU negotiating claim. It included a general 8 per cent increase each year, an additional 5 per cent for Bands 4-7, class size reductions, maternity leave improvements and union representative leave.
The elements of the claim were continually rejected by the Beattie government, which countered with an offer of 3 per cent and a refusal to negotiate on any substantial issues.
In March 2000, after the government's continued refusal to enter into genuine negotiations, a ballot was conducted regarding the implementation of work bans, which was carried by 88 per cent of the voting membership. These work bans were specifically designed to minimise disruption to students, teachers and the community and were aimed squarely at the department. The work bans, and subsequently the stop work and strike action, cemented the voice of Queensland teachers in advocating for a range of issues from working and learning conditions to a well-deserved pay rise.
It was only after the success of the stop work and strike action that the government was pressured to change its negotiating position. In July, members were balloted once again.
This time it was to vote on a new array of offers made by the department, including 800 additional teachers to reduce class sizes, 5 per cent additional pay for Bands 5 – 7, industrial relations education leave and holiday periods excluded from paid maternity leave.
This was a major victory and members voted overwhelmingly to accept this part of the offer.
The only key issue that was left to be addressed was the salary increase, which was to be arbitrated in the Industrial Relations Commission. After significant preparation of the case to be presented, teachers as witnesses and inspections of schools by Commissioners, in December 2000 the Commission awarded teachers an accumulated 14.7 per cent pay rise over a three year period, backdated some seven months to 10 April 2000.
One of the most significant aspects of the campaign was the extensive media coverage generated through the Union office and also via branch officials and workplace representatives. The Union in Brisbane issued 27 media releases generating over 400 newspaper articles and countless radio and television interviews. This was also the first time that the Union was able to utilise the website as an integral part of a campaign, with daily updates. On Saturday December 9, the day after the win in the Industrial Relations Commission, The Courier-Mail ran an article titled “Pay war victory for state teachers”, outlining the significance of the win, which was certainly one of the most comprehensive victories for the Queensland Teachers’ Union and the membership.
Former QTU President
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p22-23