Standing still won’t achieve a new Schools Agreement – it’s time to ramp up pressure on the state government to deliver. Parents and the broader community have developed a renewed understanding of the complex work we do in our schools to meet the needs of students. Also, the excessive workloads caused by underfunding, staff shortages and politically-driven demands.
As always, AEU members have stepped up to campaign for common goals and to flex our collective power. A record number of members participated in the process to develop the VGSA log of claims last year, with 362 sub-branches contributing to our list.
In Term 1, more than 10,800 teachers, ES, assistant principals and principals responded to the union’s State of our Schools survey, providing a powerful picture of how administrivia and compliance are getting in the way of teaching and learning. Then, in Term 2, thousands of members took part in the ‘Wear it Red’ week of action, and we saw record attendance at our state-wide members meeting.
Across Victoria, ‘campaign hub’ members are meeting with state Labor MPs, leading from the front and putting our case directly to government. Thousands have also joined sub-branch and regional meetings to hear reports on negotiations and get campaign upates.
If the state government still needed a wake-up call about the extent of the problem of excessive workloads, surely the information provided by members about their unpaid hours spent on writing reports and associated activities should have sounded the alarm! Almost 8,600 members from 552 schools reported 276,235 unpaid hours in Term 2 alone – an average of 32 hours per member. Off the back of this action, a front-page Herald Sun article reported that the annual amount of unpaid hours by teachers equated to $1.8 billion.
More than 7,250 members and supporters have signed a petition calling on the government to value the essential work of ES in our schools. More than 400 ES members have sent a ‘Dear James’ letter to highlight all the ways in which their work is undervalued.
Principal class members have taken selfies with placards also featuring messages to Education Minister James Merlino stating what they could do if their crippling workloads were reigned in.
The message could not be clearer. But, as we go to print, the government is yet to make a serious offer. COVID requires balancing our campaign actions with the pressures on students and parents. But pandemic or not, the government must address our key issues of salaries and workload – issues that ultimately affect our capacity to do our jobs well, maintain our health and work/life balance, retain experienced staff in the system, and meet the needs of students.
Campaigning is all about momentum and pressure – and now is the time to use the full power of our 50,000-strong membership to achieve the agreement we need. That is why it’s time to escalate our campaign and vote ‘YES’ in the protected action ballot.