Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff has come under fire from the Opposition over his communication of school closures ahead of proposed industrial action.
Labor Education spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne said the minister had failed in his duty of care by not communicating school closures earlier than on Tuesday.
However, Mr Rockliff has defended the timeline, saying it was due to a comprehensive process conducted by the Education Department.
“We could only determine this once principals had time to discuss with their staff whether they intended to attend the industrial action,” he said.
“Only once individual schools were clear which staff would be leaving the site were arrangements able to be put in place to keep the location open, or to recommend to the Minister that he close the school.”
However, Ms O’Byrne said the minister had failed in his duty of care for students and their parents and carers.
IN OTHER NEWS
“The minister knew about this almost two weeks ago and made no effort to engage with parents and carers,” she said.
Ms O’Byrne also called for the Minister to have a blanket closure in place with a hard stop time for all schools, to provide clarity for parents and carers.
Industrial action is proposed for Wednesday, October 24, which has forced the government to close 65 schools across the state early.
Fourteen schools in Northern Tasmania are affected by the union action.
Ms O’Byrne said it was disappointing the industrial action had to take place but teachers and other public servants had been backed into a corner.
“This action is taking place because of [Mr Rockliff’s] blatant refusal to negotiate in good faith. I don’t think anyone wants to see people walk off the job but the removal of labour is the last resort people have,” she said.
The action has been described by unionists as the largest scale action Tasmania has seen in decades.
A stop work rally will be held at Ockerby Gardens in Launceston at 3pm. Similar rallies and meetings will be held in Devonport, Burnie, Hobart and the East Coast.
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the industrial action was designed to cause disruption to families and other essential services.
“Parents will struggle to understand why the education union is cutting school days short when teachers are being offered a 6 per cent pay rise over three years,” he said.
He said despite reports by the unions, the industrial action was not about teacher workload but about pay.
“Our offer of a 6 per cent pay rise over the next three years is fair and affordable, and it allows us to employ all of these extra staff. An extra one per cent increase above the government’s wages policy would cost an extra $28 million to the budget – eating into the amount available to hire more teachers, nurses and doctors,” he said.
Data released by the Tasmanian Education department shows Tasmania ranks fourth out of eight states for pay parity for teachers, based on award rates per hour.
A graduate teacher’s salary in Tasmania is set at $68,159, with the lowest paid teachers in Victoria, at $66,396.
The data shows Tasmania teachers work the second lowest number of hours in the week, on par with New South Wales.
Pay rates for base teachers in Tasmania sits at $53.70, which ranks third of all states.
Mr Gutwein said it was contradictory for Labor and the unions to call for more investment in essential services but also be willing to spend an extra $28 million a year without gaining a single extra nurse, teacher or doctor.
The industrial action will have speakers from a range of unions, with the Health and Community Services Union, the Australian Midwifery Nurses Federation, the United Firefighters Union and the Community and Public Servants Union all taking part.
While you're with us, did you know that you can now sign up to receive breaking news updates and daily headlines direct to your inbox. Sign up here.