Teachers in Western Australia are in dispute with the State Labor government over wages and conditions. They have already taken industrial action by staging a stop work in February.
This stop work was declared illegal by the state government because both sides were in an official ‘bargaining period’. Such was the anger of teachers that they defied the ban and attended a mass meeting in the city anyway.
Teachers are asking for a 20 per cent pay rise over three years. But more importantly, teachers want to reduce their stress at work by having smaller class sizes, more preparation time and less class contact time.
The governments’ first response was to actually demand more classroom contact! The approach of the Labor government so far has been to treat teachers with contempt. This has resulted in teachers voting for rolling half day strikes and many previous non union members have joined the union.
The government has now forced the union to go to arbitration on all aspects of the negotiations, even though there is agreement on a many of the issues. This was done to deliberately frustrate the union and drag the negotiations on for months or even longer. It is likely that some rolling strikes will take place, even if the strikes are deemed illegal.
The arrogant attitude of the government has led many teachers to begin to question the role of the Labor Party. Many are now saying they will never vote Labor again. There are rumblings among teachers and other workers as to who to vote for at the next election in 2009.
Some are going to vote Green, some will grudgingly vote for Labor and some will not vote at all. Some teachers have made the point that even the previous Liberal governments have been more generous to teachers than the present Labor state government!
Voting for the Liberals is obviously no solution as they will only continue on Labor’s policies and the neo-liberal agenda, but with the two main parties practically the same what is our choice? Some teachers have raised the idea of the union movement getting together to select candidates from their own ranks to challenge Labor. Such a move would be very positive.
The Socialist Party supports all steps in the direction of working people having their own independent political representation. Ultimately we need to build a new mass workers’ party. It is clear from this dispute that the Labor Party is really is a bosses party and they are far more interested in winding back wages and working condition s rather than improving them.
By Socialist Party reporters