Editorial: We will continue to stand up for ourselves
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 5, 5 July 2019, page no. 5
Enterprise bargaining (EB)
You are reading this not long after the expiry of enterprise bargaining agreements in both schools and TAFE, with negotiations for new agreements in both areas.
In schools, EB8 has seen the introduction of new classifications of highly accomplished teachers and lead teachers – a standards-based recognition of and reward for classroom teachers; a salary of $101,000 per annum for experienced senior teachers; and the first review of the promotion classification structure in over 25 years.
In both schools and TAFE, ballots have been held to take protected industrial action. Negotiations are frustrated by the government’s “one size fits all” approach to wages policy, which remains unchanged at the time of writing in spite of over 18 months discussion between public sector unions and the government. Key elements of the Union’s claims in both areas have not been addressed. The unprecedented turn-out of more than 30,000 members voting in the school’s ballot shows the extent of principal and teacher dissatisfaction.
Broad scale industrial action in teaching is not common. But we know how to do it and we have no fear of it if agreement cannot be reached.
The problem of excessive workload not only persists but grows. The last EB agreement in schools included provisions that non-contact time is for personal preparation and correction and made school meeting schedules and workload generally subject to discussion at local consultative committees.
Yet in the QTU’s member needs survey earlier this year, 53 per cent of respondents rated workload as the first or second most important issue for them personally, and 67 per cent rated the workload campaign as the first or second most important. For the first time in six surveys, job security was displaced by workload as the most important issue.
It is clear that what has been done to curb workload to date has not been sufficient. The Union’s campaign will need to be re-formulated to have greater effect. One strategy must be to restrict the pipeline of change to schools. But I cannot see any way that it will not also involve a difficult, collective cultural change at all levels, but particularly at a school or workplace level. It will be intimately connected with re-asserting professional autonomy of teachers and confidence in teachers’ judgement. We must replace the notions of “students first” in all things with a notion of “students and teachers first” – because reducing teacher workload to reasonable levels will benefit students as well as teachers.
There is an old union song, Bread and Roses, about a strike of female mill workers, brought to life again in the movie, Pride, a few years ago. A beautiful few lines sum up our current campaigns:
Our lives shall not be sweated,
From now until life closes.
Hearts starve as well as bodies.
Give us bread and give us roses.
One hundred and thirty years from its creation, the QTU has developed and renews itself as a powerful voice for teachers and principals on both professional and industrial issues, and for public education and its students. There is no more democratic, inclusive or representative voice of the teaching profession in the state of Queensland.
Our reach and influence are broad. We are the second largest union in the state of Queensland. We are the third largest of the state and territory teacher unions making up the Australian Education Union, itself the second largest union in the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The union movement and its 1.8 million members are under attack from conservative governments, the owners of business and the media who broadcast their messages. They put forward a steady prescription of failed trickle-down economics in response to rising inequality in a once more egalitarian Australia. They seek to demonise unions and their members by using isolated examples of wrong-doing to condemn the whole movement and all the employees who are union members.
We have many achievements of which to be proud in our history and in our current campaigns. We are strong and professional. We will continue to stand up for ourselves. We will stand up for our students. We will stand with our fellow unionists to make a better Australia, as we have so often in the past.
Thank you for your participation in the work and democracy of the QTU. Stand tall and proud.