WIMMERA Australian Education Union members took strike action for the third time in less than a year yesterday.
About 50 staff members from schools across the Wimmera gathered outside Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty's Horsham office to protest their cause.
The state-wide protected action was in pursuit of reducing contract employment, lowering class sizes, lifting salaries and addressing workload issues.
Horsham West Primary School Reading Recovery teacher Karen Gebert said it was the first time she had participated in the strikes.
The State Government stopped funding tutors to train Reading Recovery teachers this year.
Mrs Gebert said the decision convinced her to join the action.
"Ten to 15 students would benefit from this program at our school in a year,'' she said. "That's the reason I'm on strike. It's impacting on the children.
"Education Minister Martin Dixon said the restructure would not affect children this definitely is.''
Mrs Gebert said she would try to find an alternative program but could not guarantee similar success.
"Catholic schools can still access Reading Recovery and interstate schools have it so Victorian students are seriously disadvantaged,'' she said.
Librarian Russell Vaughan also joined the strike for the first time.
He provides library services for a cluster of 10 Wimmera-Mallee schools and is based at Horsham Primary School.
Mr Vaughan said the dispute needed to be resolved.
"It affects all the schools I go to,'' he said.
"We really need a restructure.''
Mr Vaughan said the public perception seemed to be in support of teachers. He said some people had walked past the Horsham rally and applauded their efforts. Murtoa College teacher David Coles agreed that public perception was in favour of the union action.
He said improving the situation was essential.
"If we don't get young teachers coming in and staying in, we'll fall desperately behind,'' he said.
"Something like 30 per cent of young teachers have said they would consider moving interstate for better conditions.''
Mr Coles said only years seven, eight and 12 were in operation at the school yesterday because of the strike. Kaniva College closed for the day because every teacher was on strike.
Horsham College principal Frank Spiel said the school offered year seven classes and year 12 study provisions yesterday.
He said about half of the school's teachers were on strike.
"I do hope the State Government and the AEU come to a resolution to the dispute soon,'' he said.
Horsham College teacher and union sub-branch president Graeme Wilkinson said he had tried to talk to State Government politicians without getting a proper response.
"It is getting very frustrating,'' he said.
"We are getting sick of it. We don't necessarily like taking this action.''
Mr Wilkinson said the State Government had created an adversarial environment which caused those in the public sector, such as teachers, police officers and nurses, to struggle.
He said Mr Delahunty did not seem concerned with the teachers' issues. Mr Wilkinson said State Government funding cuts had significantly affected Wimmera schools. He said he hoped the union and government could come to a compromise soon.
"People are getting fed up with the Baillieu party,'' he said.
Mr Delahunty was at a Bayer CropScience wheat and oilseed breeding centre sod-turning ceremony at Longerenong College during the strike, before attend ing a Sport Ministers meeting in Melbourne. He said Wimmera teachers could talk to him about any issues they had.
"I have been open to conversations so if I can't be there today they can talk to me another day,'' he said.
"It is disappointing for families and I know it is disappointing for teachers that it hasn't been resolved already.''