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John Passant

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April 2013



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Victorian teachers: don’t accept the rotten deal

Finally, after two years of campaigning and a series of record-breaking strikes, the Australian Education Union and the Victorian Government have struck a deal. There’s some good news, and plenty of bad writes AEU delegate Manolya Moustafa in Socialist Alernative.

I’ll start with the good: we beat back performance pay! So called “performance pay” is nothing to do with “performance” and all about dividing teachers and increasing the amount of unproductive testing. Thousands of teachers and education support staff voiced overwhelming opposition to these schemes. This showed the Government that introducing, let alone implementing, any “performance pay” scheme would have faced enormous obstacles from rank and file teachers.

So it is a significant win to have “performance pay” off the table. However, this doesn’t mean we’ve beaten it back for good. As Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says: “We believe that performance-based pay has merit, but we need to work more with the teachers to convince them of the validity of that.” So the AEU will have to be ready to respond when the Government tries to introduce “performance pay” outside of the enterprise agreement process.

It’s worth saying another positive to come out of all this is that teachers and education support staff are for the first time under the same agreement. This gives us strength in unity for future fightbacks.

Now for the bad news.

If you believe the media hype, teachers will be getting pay rises of between 16.1% and 20.5%. – sounds good doesn’t it? But according to Napthine, the salary increases will total 3% in 2013, 2.75% in 2014 and 2.75% in 2015. This discrepancy in figures is visible in the pay scales provided by the union. For instance, the starting salary for graduate teachers will only be 10% higher at the end of 2016, compared with today – hardly the groundbreaking deal being touted by the union leadership. For some Education Support staff, the pay rise works out as slightly less than the 2.5% annual pay rise being offered by the Government!

The union is talking up the pay rise, apparently by taking into account the increase in pay increments, as teachers move up the pay scale over the years. But this is misleading as it takes into account increased pay that we would have achieved regardless of the dispute. Even worse, it seems that under the new deal, there are actually no guarantees that teachers will move up the expected pay scale more or less automatically, as has been common practice until now. Exact details on what we need to do to prove we are eligible are yet to be announced. But taking this into consideration, the deal is starting to sound more like a sell-out.

The feeling is confirmed when we look at conditions. For most teachers, it was our conditions that motivated us to sacrifice wages and go on strike – and yet there have been NO improvements. Class sizes and working hours remain the same. The union calls this a “win” – in reality it is maintenance of the degradation of conditions over the years.

Casual relief teachers (CRTs) play a crucial role in covering short-term absences in schools, but they are not covered by this agreement, and therefore will receive no pay rise or improvements in conditions. Although they could not strike, many CRTs honourably heeded the union’s call not to take work on strike days, which involved considerable sacrifice on their part. They have every right to feel aggrieved.

But the worst sell-out appears to be for the conditions of teachers declared “in excess”. Teachers who have ongoing status but are employed in a school that no longer needs them can be put in excess for various reasons – like reduced enrolments for example. Currently these teachers have priority status when applying for jobs. With the new proposed agreement this priority status is gone. Call me cynical, but I think it has something to do with the fact that teachers in excess tend to be classified as expert teachers, and they cost more money for schools. So if they don’t have priority status, a school can employ a much cheaper graduate teacher.

What about contract teachers? The union was asking for a 50% reduction in numbers of teachers on contracts. We haven’t won anything like that. Instead, the new agreement includes a new process to “monitor” the numbers of contracts, but again details of this are yet to be released. It could mean no gain at all for the close to 20% of teachers on short-term contracts with no job security.

AEU members should vote against accepting this agreement. Already the AEU Facebook page is flooded with criticisms from members who feel they have been duped by the union leadership. Some teachers are talking about resigning from the union. This is not the answer: we need to stay in the union and fight to improve it. We need to argue that set piece strikes twice a year are not going to win us real gains. We need to continue to argue that sustained industrial action that shuts down schools and causes a political crisis for the government (like the history-making nine-day strike by Chicago teachers last year), is the way to force them to give us what we deserve.

These deals are not “won” at the negotiation table, they are won on the streets and in the workplaces. And we can’t do that without a strong union membership. We need to stay on and argue for rank and file union activity: relying on the officials only leads to sell-outs like these.

Manolya is an AEU delegate.


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