2012: EB7: teaching conditions = learning conditions

When QTU members took on Campbell Newman’s ruthless slash and burn government in 2012, it wasn’t just their own rights they were defending. More importantly, they were also fighting for the children they teach.

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Even though the QTU’s log of claims, drawn up after extensive consultation with members across the state, was delivered to the then Department of Education and Training in November 2011, the government’s offer did not arrive until 5 June, 2012, just four weeks before the existing agreement expired.

The contents were shocking. In exchange for a pay increase of 2.7 per cent a year for three years, QTU members would have to give up practically everything they had campaigned for and won since the first EB agreement in 1994.

As well as freezing the pay of graduate teachers for three years, the government wanted any provisions that it considered “matters of policy” to be dropped from the agreement.

This would effectively have given the government free rein to change these matters at will, without any need to consult with anyone. A host of provisions, such as class sizes, the remote area incentive scheme, the conversion of temporary teachers to permanency, workload, consultative provisions, school based management guarantees, and bus and playground supervision, were at risk.

The loss of these provisions would not only have impacted hugely on the working conditions of our members, who would have been defenceless in the face of a ruthless government obsessed by the bottom line above all else, it could also have had a major impact on the education of our children, the most obvious side effects being through growth in class sizes and teacher shortages, mainly for schools in remote areas.

The QTU’s campaign set out to protect these hard-won protections, adopting the slogan “Teaching conditions = learning conditions. They’re worth too much to lose.”

This was a campaign that involved huge numbers of people. Tens of thousands of teachers played their part, whether by attending one of the many branch or area meetings held around the state to discuss the latest developments, by joining delegations to lobby their local MPs, by explaining the issues to their school’s P&C, by rallying outside Parliament House or electorate offices across Queensland, by engaging with their local media or simply by voting in ballots in huge numbers.

In the ballot held in June after the government made its initial offer, an extraordinary 91 per cent of members taking part voted against. A second ballot, through the QEC, called for protected industrial action, including work bans and limitations and 24 work stoppages.

Again the response was extraordinary, well over 20,000 members taking part, well in excess of the 50 per cent needed to make the vote valid. 90.11 per cent voted in favour of work bans, 91.18 per cent were in favour of work limitations and 83.9 per cent in favour of strikes. This could have left the government in no doubt that members’ teaching conditions and their students’ learning conditions were not for sale.

Great efforts were made to ensure that this was truly a statewide effort. When hundreds of teachers and principals rallied outside Parliament House, they were joined by colleagues the length and breadth of the state via a live webstream, which gave thousands of members well beyond Brisbane the chance to share the atmosphere and submit questions and comments directly to the rally organisers. Teachers in some of Queensland’s remotest areas were also able to address the crowd, submitting videos explaining why the campaign mattered to them, which were then played on big screens.

The visible resolve and commitment of QTU members seems to have convinced the state government it was fighting a losing battle. As September turned into October, it made a new offer under which all teaching and learning conditions were retained in enforceable industrial instruments and the freeze on graduate teacher pay was dropped. The only condition that was lost was the job security provision, which was removed by the government in a change to legislation that affects the entire public service.

Kate Ruttiman
Deputy General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p32-33


 

Past QTU campaigns