2008: Teacher Housing Campaign
The living conditions endured by teachers in remote areas of Queensland has been an issue for the QTU ever since its creation. In 2008, however, QTU members decided that they had enough.
For years, the QTU called on the state government to provide proper funding to make sure that teacher accommodation was both secure and of a decent standard. Yet issues such as missing, broken or poor quality security screens leading to break-ins and thefts from teachers’ homes, roofs left leaking for months, air conditioning units left unrepaired indefinitely in extreme climates, even floors and walls disintegrating through damage by water or termites, continued to arise.
Members in the Cape and Gulf, Torres Strait and the Indigenous schooling support unit (ISSU) took industrial action, in spite of the efforts of the department to prevent them. Members in the Central Highlands and Blackwater branches also sought directives to stop work in support of the campaign.
Teachers in the Torres Strait, Bamaga, Doomadgee and Normanton stopped work for 24 hours on July 31, but a strike due on 6 August was postponed to 4 September on Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) advice.
Finally teachers in 13 far north Queensland schools went on strike on 29 October, and it was this which produced the breakthrough. After a series of meetings, the government finally offered serious high level negotiations. As an act of good faith prior to the negotiations, the QTU deferred 24 hour strikes in Weipa and Mapoon scheduled for 6 November, and one hour stop-work meetings in the Blackwater and Central Highlands branches in Central Queensland.
A year of campaigning finally paid off when the department formally advised the QTU that an extra $20 million would be made available over three years for departmental accommodation maintenance. The department also committed to providing a “fly-in, fly-out” maintenance program for 30 remote Indigenous communities, four times a year.
Peninsula and North West Organiser
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p38