Cool result for teachers at Roma State College

QTU members at Roma State College are celebrating the successful conclusion of their campaign for air-conditioned housing.

Roma experiences high temperatures in summer and low temperatures in winter, which can result in uncomfortable living conditions and sleepless nights for staff, who are then supposed to get up and teach students the following morning.

When ownership of teacher accommodation was transferred to the Department of Housing and Public Works (DHPW), the then Premier Campbell Newman had claimed that the decision would improve the standard of accommodation for all government employees. Roma SC members were led to believe that this would include air conditioning installed in housing.

However, with the change of ownership, the disparity in the standard of housing in Roma become more evident. Of 113 residencies under the control of DHPW, 32 were occupied by education personnel. Only five were air-conditioned, seven were partly air-conditioned, and 20 had no air conditioning at all. In fact, education was the only public agency with residences that had no air conditioning.

Tired of hearing promises from both sides of politics, members decided to take action. Roma State College sub-branch developed an air-conditioning campaign plan and requested endorsement from QTU Senior Officers for their demand that all local teachers living in government employee housing have air conditioning installed. The campaign centred on contact with Education Minister Kate Jones, Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni, local Warrego MP Ann Leahy, ABC Southern Queensland and the Roma Western Star newspaper.

Members believed they were getting somewhere when Minster de Brenni and his chief of staff visited Roma and met with Union Reps Sue Price and Chris Smith. During the visit, Chris and Sue strongly advocated for improved teacher accommodation standards in Roma and identified the lack of air-conditioning in the majority of teacher housing as a major concern for members.

When the sub-branch sent a follow up letter to Minister de Brenni’s chief of staff without receiving a response, members asked QTU Senior Officers to contact the Minister’s office. It took two months before members received an official reply, which indicated that the status quo would remain for the foreseeable future. The day before the letter was received, Warrego MP Ann Leahy stood in Parliament to ask Minister de Brenni about the two-month delay and when the additional funding would be provided to resolve the accommodation issues. The Minister reiterated the status quo would remain.

The sub-branch requested that QTU Executive issue a directive for a one-hour stop-work meeting on Thursday 15 September, to enable members to discuss future strategy. The ballot was overwhelmingly carried and conveyed to Minister Jones and Minister de Brenni.
Rather than wait for DHPW to find a solution, Minister Jones intervened and requested DET Infrastructure Services Branch to work with DHPW to install air conditioning in all teacher housing in Roma during the September school holidays, with a final completion date of no later than 1 December.

Roma SC Union Rep Chris Smith said he was “pleased that someone in the government had stepped up and taken responsibility”.

Congratulations to the Roma SC sub-branch for a very successful local campaign. The local action members were willing to take exemplifies what unionism is about. They were determined to address the inequity and never underestimated their strength when united behind the cause.

Zeb Sugden                                                                                                                       South Queensland Organiser

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 121 No 8, 11 November 2016, p13