2005-2008: Central Queensland teachers stand up for housing
Between 2005 and 2008, members in Central Queensland lead the way in enhancing the quality and security of teacher accommodation.
In 2005, several hundred QTU members across 21 central Queensland schools voted to take industrial action as part of a Central Queensland Area Council housing campaign.
The campaign had two objectives:
- to achieve better capital works funding
- to secure air conditioning for all department accommodation in the Cooler Schools Zone.
Following a series of rolling one hour stop-work meetings, the department agreed to engage with the Union to seek a resolution to the dispute.
At one point, when negotiation looked like faltering, the same group of schools voted to conduct a 24 hour strike, supported by several additional schools (from centres without accommodation) in Central Queensland that voted to conduct one-hour stop work meetings to protest the department’s failure to resolve the dispute.
Fortunately, these actions did not have to proceed as a resolution was then reached.In the first instance the department agreed to a four year program of air conditioning installation in all department-owned accommodation in the Cooler Schools Zone. This program (which was new money) commenced in the 2005/06 financial year.
Secondly the department undertook to trial a private/public partnership for the provision of accommodation, with the trial to occur in Moranbah.
While the trial failed due to lack of private interest, it still resulted in the provision of 10 new units of accommodation in Moranbah. Subsequent gains included:
- trials of modular housing units in different combinations
- replacement of some older style housing in Moranbah
- Union involvement in housing design, fit out and standards for what became known as the Moranbah Housing Trial
- a recognition by the then Director-General of Education that “…a high standard of teacher housing which is comparable to community standards should be recognised as an employee entitlement” (with “community standard” interpreted as Queensland community standard).
Striking for safety
In 2007 and 2008, a small group of QTU members in remote Queensland launched a campaign to enhance teacher safety.
In January 2007, after a particularly severe series of break-ins and vandalism during the Christmas vacation period, the QTU members at Woorabinda State School spent the first two days of the school year on strike.
Six of the striking members were first year teachers in their first days of employment with the department.
The actions of these 13 members resulted in significant improvements to the security of department residences. It also elicited a more coordinated multi-agency attempt to address the existing social issues in the community.
However, despite the response of the then state government and the department, the issue re-emerged when further break-ins occurred on the weekend of 26 January 2008.
Once again QTU members took action, holding a two-hour stop work meeting which culminated in a public meeting at the Woorabinda Council Chambers attended by nearly 100 community members.
This resulted in a permanent increase in the police force allocation to Woorabinda and further enhancement of housing security measures, as well as other agency actions.
Thanks to the effort of those 13 QTU members, not only were immediate issues addressed and future safety needs secured, but community benefits were also achieved.
Former Central Queensland Organiser
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p39