Wimmera teachers rally

WIMMERA teachers will refuse to work outside their paid 38-hour weeks next year if pay and conditions disputes with the State Government are not resolved.

Teachers, education support staff and principals from across the region rallied outside Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty's Horsham office yesterday as part of Australian Education Union action.

The group of up to 50 people focused on issues such as contract employment, performance pay, salaries and workload.

The union's Grampians region organiser Erich Sinkis and Victorian vice-president Justin Mullaly led the rally and addressed the staff.

The group stuck a giant letter to Mr Delahunty on the window of his office and chanted their demands through megaphones.

Horsham police looked on and stepped in once when a man started yelling at the group, calling them 'bludgers'.

Mr Mullaly told the teachers it was Mr Delahunty's duty as Member for Lowan to help resolve the dispute for Wimmera teachers.

"I heard Hugh Delahunty on the radio today talking about our action,'' he said.

"He said he wished we'd think more about the students.

''This is about the kids we teach and the families they come from. You do it because you believe in public education.

"I don't think Hugh Delahunty understands that he seems to think we do it for ourselves.

"You've got to battle to retain teachers. This is a campaign about our students.''

Mr Mullaly said the Premier Ted Baillieu had broken his promise to make the state's teachers the best-paid in Australia.

He slammed the State Government's offer of performance pay, describing it as draconian.

"It's where you pit teacher against teacher,'' he said.

Mr Mullaly called on Mr Delahunty to tell the government to honour its promise.

"They need more than ever to come out and support public education,'' he said.

"This dispute has gone on for a long time. They've had two years to sort this dispute and all they've done is drag their heels.''

Mr Mullaly said throughout term four teachers would not report student achievement to the Education Department, would put limited comments in students' reports and there would be a one-hour limit on scheduled meetings each week and bans specific to education support members' work.

Donald Primary School principal Danny Forrest said it was important to support the action.

He said the government had cut 60 per cent of support staff from regional schools. 

“They’re going about it the wrong way,’’ he said.

Mr Forrest said the number of teachers on contracts was discouraging. 

He asked Wimmera politicians to support Wimmera teachers.

“Go back three years, all our local members were active in the community,’’ he said.

“But they’re like that black panther – they’ve gone missing.’’ 

Horsham West Primary School teacher Ben Miatke said performance pay would make teaching solitary and anti-social.

“At West we take a team approach to our teaching where we help each other and work together,’’ he said.

“In terms of contracts, we have a fair quantity of teachers who need to reapply for their jobs every year and it’s stress they don’t need. 

“As far as I know a number of our support staff are on contracts and have the same problems.’’

Horsham College teacher and union counsellor Ros Matthews said attracting new teachers to the region was difficult under current conditions.

“If they’re not getting paid properly they won’t come,’’ she said. 

“The cost of public education is increasing.’’ 

Ms Matthews said cuts to TAFE programs had also affected the region.

Horsham College teacher and union sub-branch president Graeme Wilkinson said only working paid hours next year could be necessary if the action continued.

“In practice it’s quite difficult,’’ he said. “But if it comes to that it’s the sort of thing we’ll have to look it.

“One’s got to do what one’s got to do. If we take no industrial action we won’t get any recognition at all from the government.’’

Kaniva College could not attend the action but wrote Mr Delahunty a letter asking for support.

Mr Delahunty was in Melbourne yesterday. He said he was pleased with the behaviour at the rally but said it was unnecessary.

“It disrupts the students and disadvantages them,’’ he said. “We need fair pay and appropriate conditions, but without disrupting students.’’

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