From the President: Forging our future
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 2, 15 March 2019, page no. 7
The fact is, like the rest of our nation, Australian teachers and principals need a pay rise. The value placed on any professional is not measured by pay alone, but it is a strong indicator of the worth our community places on the roles we play.
Imagine a world-leading economy where teachers work two or even three jobs to earn enough to live on. Now imagine a developing country where teachers work for months at a time with no pay as their government struggles to cope with overwhelming demand for public services.
The situation in the United States, where teachers work other jobs on nights and weekends just to pay for rent and food, is deplorable. In Africa, Asia and South America, teachers regularly go without pay and face ferocious challenges from predatory multi-national companies seeking to take over public education to turn it into a profit-making enterprise.
We should reflect on these realities and play our part in our world union, Education International, with more than 30 million other teachers, leaders and education support workers campaigning to raise the status of teaching across the globe.
That which we can best hope to control is our own circumstances. The three-year cycle of enterprise bargaining brings certain issues close to the surface. For some members, the debate is not about pay but about working conditions. For others, there is an urgent need to enhance pay for both teachers and leaders. What is an absolute certainty is that outcomes can only be delivered on the back of a strong campaign by members that wins the hearts and minds of the community and politicians.
When we look around our nation, the average Queensland teacher salary currently sits around the middle of the pack. Our beginning teachers have been among the best paid in the nation for some years. We have led the way with new salary levels for highly accomplished teachers and lead teachers and the first comprehensive process for certification against the national standards, something that will see a rare achievement in other states become a genuine career opportunity for classroom teachers in Queensland. All these outcomes arise from past enterprise bargaining processes, won with QTU members, never through the munificence of government.
Across our nation, governments are deeply entrenched in the economic woes that result from too little income and rising costs of essential services. The impacts on bargaining in our profession are significant. New South Wales has a legislated pay cap of 2.5 per cent. Western Australian teachers have been offered a new agreement with a flat increase of $1,000 per annum. Tasmanian teachers have taken three days of strike action and their state government has not yet even made a formal offer. In South Australia, a long campaign, including industrial action, has yet to result in an acceptable offer.
We have a legislative and political framework in Queensland that offers opportunities in bargaining that others do not have. We must be focused on using that advantage to maximise the outcomes from our campaign. Ultimately, the Queensland Government must answer this question – can it afford not to pay its teachers and school leaders decently, when, in the goverment's own words, the state’s future prosperity depends on it?
The thing that stands between us and any of these alternatives is a strong profession united in our unions.