Sunday, August 03, 2008

Teachers continue campaign for a fair go for public education...

(Photo: Philip Griffin)

Fair Pay, Fair Funding, Fair Go for public education - that's the campaign slogan of the AEU's South Australian Branch. They are currently locked in battle with the State Government over their recent claim for a new enterprise agreement. The AEU has been in negotiations with the Department of Education and Children's Services (DECS) and the State Government since early in the year but seem no closer to an agreement that recognises the issues raised in the their Claim.

A major stumbling-block in reaching an agreement seems to be the Government's proposal for a Student Centred Resource Funding Model (SCRFM). If implemented, the model will significantly disadvantage around 47 percent of public schools, some of which will lose up to $250K in funding. Schools will also be forced to make staffing decisions on a term-by-term basis, exacerbating existing staffing problems for leaders in hard-to-staff locations and creating greater instability for contract employees.

Salaries are also an issue. A post on the AEU's blog says that the union is pushing for salary increases that achieve parity with the other States - a benchmark of around $75K for the top rank and file classification (Step 8). Despite what seems to be a more than fair salary claim, much of the media comment from opponents of the union's position - including government - has suggested that the union is being greedy and should accept the government offer of 3.25 percent over three years. The union has been quick to point out that inflation is running at around 4.6 percent and that accepting the Government Offer would effectively result in a pay cut for education workers.

One of the most outspoken critics of the AEU and it's current campaign for fair pay and conditions is Business SA CEO, Peter Vaughan. In a recent Advertiser article, Vaughan suggested that teachers need to "act the part" if they wanted to be treated like professionals. In his confused and contradictory diatribe, Vaughan also suggested that teachers should be subject to the same type of performance management practices that exist in the private sector: "Many occupations link performance and pay. If teaching remains focused on salary with no regard to the assessment of educational standards, it will continue to be regarded as a career that sits well below other more highly sought-after professions." Perhaps pay was your focus Peter but a brief look at the AEU's Claim for A New Agreement is all it takes to see that there is much more to this dispute than salary.

So who is this mischievous reactionary and what's his game? According to Business SA's website, Vaughan is an avid collector of wine and modern art and came to our State from Victoria where he was a secondary school teacher and one-time President of the Victorian Secondary Teachers’ Association. Fortunately for Victorian students, his career in education lasted a mere seven years. Clearly a teaching salary wasn't keeping the cellar full.

In his article, Vaughan also states that "teachers are doing themselves a grave disservice in their current pay dispute by demanding more pay ad more pupil-free days for planning and development". Vaughan uses the term "pay dispute" to twist the true nature of the union's campaign and then goes on to criticise the AEU for focussing on matters related to curriculum, i.e. planning and development. Planning and development - it's a rather shameful waste of time don't you think? Surely these greedy teachers should take a leaf out of the corporate book and spend more time on the phone to their stockbroker or perhaps bidding on a recently discovered Mondrian.

Vaughan also says he would like to see performance indicators put in place so teachers "strive for results in the classroom". Why not take it a step further Peter and re-introduce corporal punishment? Perhaps all parents with children in public schools should be issued with a cat o'nine tails so that the "under-performing" teacher can be adequately disciplined when a 'C' appears on their child's report. A = movie voucher, B = frown from Principal and 'C' equals 50 lashes!

What is really driving Peter Vaughan in his quest to undermine the teaching profession? Could it be his narrow focus on outcomes for business - he's suggested, for example, that students shouldn't be "socially engineered", rather teachers should be preparing them for the "job market". Or maybe it's just a classic case of sour grapes: he didn't cut it as a teacher so, like every greedy capitalist, he's treading on anyone he can to make a name (and some money) for himself.

One thing's for certain, Peter Vaughan would much rather see government money spent on tax cuts for business – á la the last State Budget – than on the provision of properly funded public education.

The Communist Party of Australia (SA) supports the AEU and their campaign for Fair Pay, Fair Funding and a Fair Go for public education We congratulate the AEU for standing up for the rights of staff and students in South Australia's public preschools, schools and TAFEs.

N.B Peter Vaughan is also a member of the WorkCover Board. A recent change to Government legislation has seen the levy payable to WorkCover by business reduced significantly, while entitlements to injured workers have been slashed.

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