Two simple words, but two that are important to use after such a difficult two terms. The staff shortage crisis that existed before COVID has intensified, causing difficulties in our teaching and education support personnel (ESP) across all of our sectors. It has contributed to a year like no other, and in some ways it is difficult to comprehend we are only half-way through the year.
I hope you have been able to see the AEU take an active stand in the media over the last year, as we continue to champion public education and continue to put pressure on this government to improve the way they treat our wonderful system. We have seen a positive relationship build with the media and are now seeing them come to us when Education issues arise. This is the way it should be, as we will continue to advocate and fight for a fairer public system.
I wish I could be bringing you a report that highlights all the wonderful improvements the government has made, but it is not to be. We have seen our TAFE system move to the fair work system and all the promises of new teachers and higher pay due to the freedom this would create have been non-existent. Four out of 100 teachers recruited, the hourly rate for new teachers already reduced and less than current teachers teaching the same content. The whole process was a sham and the MLCs who allowed the government to do this, had the wool pulled over their eyes and were made to believe in fairytales. A black mark on any considered legacy from ex Minister Courtney.
The government has also shown contempt for our DoE sector. A good-will short-term Agreement that would help the Department get through COVID and allow for negotiations to continue on or before the first of April, has been thrown in our faces, proven by the fact that it is now July and we still have not seen a Management log of claims either outlining their asks or what they think of our Lifting Learning plan.
They have had this plan in front of them for a year, no response. That isn’t how you say thank you, that is how you quite plainly say ‘we have no solutions for resolving your workload’. It’s a kick in the guts and one of the most frustrating aspects of my role.
Our ESP’s start the journey in their negotiations this month. I’m not holding my breath, but I am once again proud of our log of claims that has seen consultation across our ESP network. It shows that we are prepared to listen to our members and put forward solutions that would have a real impact in schools. We have held regional member meetings and continue to try and build our membership because one of the best ways to get movement in this sector is with strength in numbers.
Having now been in the role for 5 terms, my forehead is starting to become more resilient to the brick walls it continues to bang against, but my passion for public education has not waned. I want to see conditions improve for our members, I want to see our students get the funding and resourcing they need. I knew it was never a short-term battle and I’m in it for the long haul. What I need from our members is to come on the journey too. Term 3 may see us need to take action to make our voice heard. It might not be easy or comfortable, but if we don’t stand up for public education, who will? The current burn out of educators is not acceptable, the continue pile on of extra work, whilst nothing is taken away is not manageable. The NSW education union has coined the term “More than thanks” and I see that as being fully relevant here too. We deserve more than thanks, we need a government willing to stop talking about being in support of public education, but one that actually does it through actions.
I hope you can have an enjoyable holiday break, you have deserved it.
AEU Tasmania Branch President