More than 40 schools in central Victoria were affected by a state-wide strike yesterday as local teachers, principals and support staff rallied in Melbourne and Mildura for better pay and working conditions.
The strike is the third in a spate of disputes between the state government and the Australian Education Union (AEU) over a new workplace agreement.
Nine schools in Bendigo closed for the day as school staff vented their anger at Premier Ted Ballieu and his failed promise to make Victorian teachers the best paid in Australia. In Melbourne, Weeroona College maths teacher Tracey Lee said there was a feeling of positivity among the estimated 10,000 ralliers.
Ms Lee said teachers had received enormous support from the community and the union would continue to apply pressure.
Camp Hill primary school teacher Glynis Rogers said if the state government wanted to attract quality teachers to the profession it needed to improve pay and working conditions.
Crusoe College science teacher Margaret Brennan, who has been a teacher for 35 years said she had seen a “huge increase” in her workload and needed to be compensated.
Ms Brennan described the notion that school teachers should only work a 38-hour week, including during school camps as “ridiculous”.
In Mildura AEU industrial organiser for Loddon Mallee Michael Claven said about 300 people turned out for the rally at the Settlers Hotel. Mr Claven said a group of union delegates met with the local MP Peter Crisp to inform him of their concerns.
But Victorian Education Minister Peter Hall said good progress has been made on negotiations for a new pay deal.
Mr Hall said the government and union had met six times in the past two weeks and another two meetings were scheduled for next week.
“I think the gap between what the union want and what the government want is narrowing and I think it is possible we can find a solution to this,” he said.
“But marching in the streets of Melbourne isn’t going to help.”