In mid September West Australian teachers rejected a pay offer put to them by the then State Labor Government. The teacher’s union suggested that the workers accept the deal.
The State School Teachers Union (SSTU) demanded a 20 per cent pay rise over 3 years as well as a reduction in class sizes and a general reduction in workload. The pay offer was around 20 per cent but none of the workload reduction aspects were in the deal.
When the offer was first made in August the union leadership advised acceptance. It was generally thought that the offer would be accepted by a large majority of teachers. What the union leaders did not say was that in the small print of the offer was an extension of the working day. The government wanted the hours to change from 8.30am to 3pm to 7am to 7pm!
The offer also included an additional 15 hours of professional development teachers would have to do outside of their school time. When union activists found out about this small print they started a campaign to reject the offer. Eventually the offer was rejected by a two thirds majority.
The case could now go to arbitration, and it could be eighteen months before there is any pay rise with no backdating. Teachers are obviously very angry about the increase in the spread of hours but this is only half the reason they rejected the deal.
Teachers were also angered when they found out that that the union leadership wanted the dispute over before the state election. For the union leaders the teacher’s dispute was threatening the re-election of their mates in the Labor Party.
The union leadership thought that it was more important to try and get Labor re-elected than to represent their members. In branch meetings all over the state teachers spoke out against the leadership at levels unheard of in the past.
Alongside the campaign to improve the offer from the new Government there will also now be a campaign to replace the current union leaders with people who will unashamedly put the interests of the members before the interests of the Labor Party.
It is only a fighting democratic union that will be able to successfully win decent pay for teachers in Western Australia.
UPDATE: Recently the new WA Liberal Party Government has made an improved offer to the teachers.
By Socialist Party reporters