Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teachers strike a huge success

South Australian members of the Australian Education Union have vented their anger at the state’s Labor government by holding a 24-hour strike.

The AEU covers Technical and Further Education (TAFE) lecturers, pre-school and school teachers, principals, school services officers (SSOs), early childhood workers (ECWs) and Aboriginal education workers (AEWs) in the public education sector.

Frustrated by months of stubborn rejection of their wage claim (21% over three years) and faced with the loss of protection for class sizes and working conditions, members voted by 85 percent in Electoral Commission-conducted secret ballots, to strike.

More than 500 worksites throughout the state were closed, despite the Education Department (DECS) doing its best to keep some sites open with the few scabs prepared to report for work, and claims that “modified programs” would be available.

With more than 11,000 AEU members on strike, the scene was set for a large turn-out at a mid-morning rally and march on Parliament House.

However, the preferred route, marching from Victoria Square where the State Administration Office housing the Premier’s Department is located, down the city’s main thoroughfare, King William Street to Parliament, was denied to the AEU on the grounds that a recent tram extension made the route unsafe. Also, and shades of Mussolini, the trams had to be allowed to run on time!

This meant that the march had to start from a distant and less accessible corner of the city.

If the government thought that this would minimize the impact of the march, they were soon to be proven wrong.

More than 8000 education workers, parents and students gathered and marched off to chants of “2-4-6-8 Mike Rann negotiate!” and “What do we want? A fair offer? When do we want it? NOW!”

The size of the rally became apparent as police hastily replaced safety cones, designed to keep traffic lanes and the tram line open for traffic in front of Parliament House, back across the street. Despite their best efforts, the crowd quickly spilled out to the tram line, and then across the tram line until the entire six-lane North Terrace was a sea of red.

Speakers including a primary school principal and a parent in her capacity as a school Governing Council chairperson, spoke before AEU President Correna Haythorpe proposed a series of motions calling for continued industrial and community actions. These were passed unanimously.

Smaller marches and rallies occurred in a number of country towns (above), and out on the APY (Aboriginal communities) Lands in the far north-west of the state (below).

According to the AEU, if there is no breakthrough in discussions with the government, a campaign of rolling stoppages will begin and may include another 24-hour stoppage.

By keeping the focus on the issues at stake to schools and their communities, and by maintaining the momentum through carefully planned and timed further action, education workers will be able to persevere in a protracted struggle, and win the majority of their demands.

1 comment:

kayti and dan said...

looks like a good rally and a good campaign.

With vic teachers getting a decent rise (so i'm told) and south aussie doctors recently winning a big increase a decent settlement should be on the way, no?

Updates please.


Dan Murphy