130 years on - we stand on the shoulders of giants
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 1, 15 February 2019, page no. 17
On 9 January 1895, our Union was born. During the subsequent 130 years, the impact of that single event has been felt, whether consciously or not, by everyone who has ever worked in public education in this state, even today.
Hyperbole you cry? Well no. Take a moment to think about the basic work conditions we all enjoy today. Done it? Well, the chances are that it’s pressure from the QTU, rather than the good intentions of uncharacteristically generous employers, that brought those conditions into being.Here are just a few examples.
While there is still some work to do, men and women working for the Department of Education enjoy equal pay for equal work. This came into effect in 1972 after literally decades of intense QTU pressure. Mooted as early 1899, the objections of generations of male members were finally overcome in 1947, when equal pay became official QTU policy. At last, in 1967, the Industrial Court accepted the validity of the Union’s case.
In 1911, the QTU launched a proposal for teachers’ superannuation fund, to be managed by the state government. After enlisting the support of the Public Service Association, super became one of the Union’s top priorities, dominating the annual conference in 1912. In 1913, legislation was introduced setting up a superannuation scheme for all Queensland public servants.
Working conditions are worthless if they cannot be protected legally. In 1917, just months after the QTU was granted industrial registration, giving it exclusive coverage of the state school system, the first teachers’ award was registered, the first in Australia.
In 1968, teachers voted for strike action after the state government responded to a teacher shortage by attempting to place teachers in high schools after just eight weeks of training. The plan was withdrawn, but the dispute prompted the Union to call for compulsory teacher registration to defend the integrity of the profession. It finally came into effect in 1975.
Following threats of strike action, the state government agreed to the progressive reduction of class sizes, down to 36 in 1974 and eventually to 32 in 1977. Thanks to Union action, they have continued to reduce since.
The state government first committed to providing housing for teachers in country and remote areas in 1974, after the Union withdrew teachers from schools in Laura and Pasha because of unsatisfactory accommodation.
In 1974, the QTU released “Conditions for Learning and Teaching in Country Areas of Queensland”, which proposed a series of incentives for teachers prepared to work in remote areas. Years of campaigning eventually resulted in a promise to introduce a Remote Area Incentive Scheme. In 1990, the state government reneged on its commitment. Around 130 schools took stop work action, the first widespread industrial action since 1982. RAIS was introduced the following year.
The QTU began calling for the establishment of colleges providing formal teacher training in 1889, dissatisfied with a system that required “pupil teachers” to learn on the job in conditions likened to “child slavery”. Queensland’s first teacher training college was eventually set up in 1914.
The QTU campaigned for non-contact time for decades, with a series of wins eventually culminating in 1995, when, for the first time, all Queensland teachers had access to non-contact time after 10,000 QTU members in pre-schools, primary and special schools took industrial action.
The removal of suspension without pay, guaranteed lunch breaks, guaranteed permanency and holiday pay for temporary teachers, the retention of leave loading, and the list goes on…