Woorabinda teachers act to protect their security
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 3, 13 April 2018, p12
Tired of having to put up with insecure teacher accommodation, QTU members at Woorabinda State School in Central Queensland have campaigned relentlessly to get something done.
When they returned at the start of the school year, teachers found that their accommodation had been broken into over the summer holidays.
Unfortunately, they have had to watch the housing of other key public servants such as police and nurses being upgraded, made more secure or completely replaced while teachers, who often spend much longer in the community, are treated as a lower priority.
This is not new, but it has been made worse by the inability of Government Employee Housing (GEH), managed by the Department of Public Works and the Department of Education, to provide consistency in the quality of housing for teachers in many remote communities.
Central Queensland Regional Organiser Dan Coxen visited the school and members met to consider what they wanted to do. They decided to seek basic security upgrades before the Easter break and a commitment from their employer to look at major upgrades to a number of the properties.
As a result, the department committed to security upgrades including:
- striker plates to external doors
- external lighting to be caged to prevent damage
- upgrade to sensor lighting where not currently installed
- security screening installed to windows and doors where missing
- relocation of light switches to enable tenants to turn on security lighting without the need to go outside
- repairs to the flashing on windows to prevent entry.
Members were also informed that GEH is planning the construction of two new three-bedroom residences, with completion planned for the end of June. The department also committed to undertaking condition assessments with a view to housing refurbishment as part of the $54million Housing Improvement Program.
However, when the initial security work was completed, the members were not satisfied with the standard of the work, and invited Dan Coxen and me to inspect the teacher housing in Woorabinda. I was shocked at the significant variation in standards. We need to ensure that standards are consistent, where possible, by seeking the replacement of housing stock that has suffered from a combination of poor initial design, poor construction and lack of proper maintenance.
During this visit, members resolved to take industrial action in the form of a one-hour stop work meeting on the last day of term one if security upgrades were not completed satisfactorily. At the time of writing, the final works were being completed to meet this deadline.
The QTU will continue to work with members at Woorabinda, in partnership with the department regionally in Central Queensland and centrally with the Infrastructure Services Branch, to find a long-term solution to the community’s housing issues.
I want to acknowledge the members of the QTU who were willing to stand up and be heard, and to welcome some of our newest members, who joined the QTU as this campaign evolved. Woorabinda State School is now a proudly 100 per cent QTU workplace.
Deputy General Secretary