130 years and growing stronger
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 5, 5 July 2019, page no. 15
Earlier in 2019, The Queensland Teachers’ Union reached the significant milestone of 130 years of history. On the eve of this major achievement, your Union also reached 46,000 members for the first time in our long and rich story.
On 9 January 1889, 23 teachers and principals from schools across the colony of Queensland met in Brisbane to found the first teachers’ union on this continent. We continued that proud tradition and came together for our biennial State Conference from July 1-3 this year.
With public education continuing to grow strongly in line with Queensland’s population, the role of the QTU is as important now as it was back in 1889 when that first meeting of the Union took place in Brisbane.
Reflecting on some of our recent history, it is interesting how history continues to repeat itself. As a Union, profession and state school system, nothing has ever been achieved through the benevolence of our employer, the state government of Queensland. It is always through high levels of membership coupled with the willingness of members to take action in support of significant campaigns.
For those members who have not been teaching very long, it is important to reflect for a moment on what we have achieved in the past through collective action.
- Regular salary increases ever since the beginning of the enterprise bargaining process in 1994, lifting the top classroom teacher salary from just under $40,000 in EB1 to $101,000 in EB8.
- Class size reductions in 2003 which saw classes in P-3 and 11-12 reduced to 25 and classes in 4-10 reduced to 28.
- School based management guarantees protecting national staffing arrangements, secured after votes supported industrial action in the face of threats from Leading Schools (1998) and Great Teachers = Great Results (2013).
- Non-contact time secured for all teachers in 1995.
- Improvements to the Remote Area Incentive Scheme (RAIS) and teacher accommodation in a range of centre across rural and remote parts of the state following member action.
These are just some of the many achievements members have won over the past two decades.
But our work continues. We need to grow our numbers and be willing to assert our industrial and professional rights collectively as much now as at any point in our 130-year history. Since May alone, more than 1,000 new members have joined the QTU.
We are seeing continued workload pressures on school leaders and teachers as governments and bureaucracies continue to look for quick-fix solutions to improve student outcomes, without providing adequate time and resources. We see pressure on class sizes as enrolments continue to grow. We see issues with curriculum implementation. We see ongoing teacher supply problems.
None of these challenges are new. We have seen them all before at some point in our history. The task ahead is how we deal with each of them on a statewide basis.
As unions continue to face attacks nationally and internationally by conservative media, political and business interests, public sector unions such as the QTU continue to grow. The success of our movement in improving the working conditions and salaries of members across the years creates a dichotomy where all workers receive the benefits fought for by union members and yet across the broader economy, union membership is in decline.
We have an opportunity to demonstrate how modern collective action and unionism can achieve positive change to improve the working conditions of school leaders and teachers and the learning conditions of the students we teach in schools and TAFE.
The QTU currently has five values: "In its pursuit of members’ interests the QTU is:
- Member focused."
As we enter the next chapter of our history, including our current EB9 campaign in schools and EB10 in TAFE, we have an obligation to embrace these values in our actions. When we stick together, we win. It is that simple.
Happy 130 years and solidarity. #QTUProud #QTUProudAndDeadly