Education cutbacks and staff cuts has impacted on students’ educational outcomes, an impassioned Launceston College teacher has told an industrial rally.
Lisa Bartholomew said her colleagues were passionate about their jobs and celebrated the small wins, but continued cuts to staffing levels had impacted on their ability to give individual attention to students.
“While the high achievers are always memorable, but it’s the small victories that runs deep; seeing kids achieve their TCE when no one else believed in them,” she said.
Hundreds turned out to Launceston’s Ockerby Gardens, near the Launceston General Hospital, to increase the fight for an increase to public servant wages.
The rally was attended by Labor Education spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne and Primary Industries spokesman Shane Broad and had representatives from unions such as: Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation, United Voice, National Tertiary Education Union, Australian Education Union, Health and Community Services Union, the Community and the Public Service Union.
School banners from Glen Dhu Primary School, Invermay Primary School and Queechy High School could be seen among those in the crowd.
Earlier in the day, Treasurer Peter Gutwein again described the union action as “disappointing” and encouraged the unions to come back to the bargaining table.
“We would encourage the unions to come back to the table and stop disrupting services for Tasmanians.”
Mr Gutwein said there were a number of things the union had raised in terms of employment conditions and workload the government would be willing to negotiate on.
“We are happy to discuss a raft of these issues in terms of employment conditions but the main point is we believe the 2 per cent pay increase is fair, reasonable and, importantly, affordable."
Mr Gutwein said the unions were “doing their best” to make a point but said it was perplexing as the government had, in effect, offered a pay increase, with their 2 per cent offer over three years.
However, the sentiment at the rally, was the 2 per cent wage cap for public servants had to go, as cost of living increased for all Tasmanians.
‘CONSTANTLY SHORT STAFFED’
Launceston General Hospital nurse Lani Murray, who works at the John L Grove rehabilitation ward, said nurses were fed up with being overworked and underpaid.
“Every day we are short staffed and have to call people in who are working over time,” she said.
“If we stick with the 2 per cent we will be the lowest paid nurses in the country, which doesn’t fit well with Tasmania’s sicker, older demographic.”
Ms Murray, a union representative, said the LGH’s nurses regularly do double shifts and the 2 per cent cap was not sustainable into the future.
COST OF LIVING
Health and Community Services Union representative Liz Dominy said she has worked at the Launceston General Hospital for 11 and a half years but has had to struggle to meet the rising cost of living.
“I have worked at the hospital for 11.5 years, but it took me four years to gain permanency, and even then I was only covered for 25 hours, despite regularly working 46 hours,” she said.
“I live fortnight, to fortnight and can barely afford all the luxuries like nights out with friends and I have to go into debt to afford big, unexpected expenses.”
She said the government needed to bargain in good faith to negotiate and scrap the 2 per cent wage cap.
“All of our action and bargaining has fallen on deaf ears,” she said.
“We have accepted the cap for too long, we deserve and are entitled to a pay rise of more than 2 per cent.”
‘PAY US FOR SKILLS’
Launceston firefighter Jeff Gibson said Tasmania’s career firefighters were the lowest paid in the country but were expected to have all the skills.
“We do the same job and more than our mainland counterparts but we are expected to know every skill in the toolbox,” he said.
“But we will never stop turning up and going into those burning houses and fires and saving Tasmanians.”
Mr Gibson is a representative of the United Firefighters Union.
“We are a small union but we have a big voice,” he said.
Parents and carers were disrupted by the industrial action after 65 schools across the state closed early.
Twelve schools in Northern Tasmania closed early to accommodate the industrial action.
However, Exeter Primary School and Punchbowl Primary School have elected to remain open in light of scheduled industrial action rallies.
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff made the decision at the behest of the Education Department to close some schools early to accommodate the action.
Exeter Primary School and Punchbowl Primary School notified parents on their Facebook pages on Wednesday that the school would operate from 2.15pm with “limited supervision”.
Classes were suspended and remaining students cared for by the remaining teachers in large groups until parents and carers could collect the students.
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff and Treasurer Peter Gutwein both have described the action as “disappointing” in light of the government’s investment in the education sector.
The government has pledged to employ 250 more teachers to help address teacher workload, with recruitment for the extra staff already underway.
However, Australian Education Union Tasmania secretary Roz Madsen said teachers should not accept to be the lowest paid in the country just because they live in Tasmania.
“We are fourth highest paid If we hadn’t changed the salary scale for new graduates when we were negotiating the current agreement that is about to expire they would be the lowest paid,” she said.
Tasmania’s Education Department data shows a primary school teacher on the lowest salary band would be paid $73, 629 based on the award rate.
Teachers are paid on the national award of $25.23 per hour and paid an average of $958.55 per week.
Ms Madsen said 50 per cent of Tasmanian teachers are on the most experienced end of the salary scale.
“Tasmanian teachers deliver a national curriculum and participate in national testing like NAPLAN,” she said.
“Educators have accepted a 2 per cent wage increase and ‘pulled their belts in’ for seven years. At a time when the government has budgeted for a $620 million surplus over the next four years and the cost of an additional 1 per cent in salary for all public servants is $28 million per year, it is a matter of priorities for the government.”
However, Mr Gutwein said the wage increase would have an accumulative effect on the budget bottom line.
“The issue is the $28 million is the first-year impact only, the next year it will be $56 million and the year after that it would add an additional $28 million,” he said.
“It will be a quarter billion impact on the budget. Its accumulative, its not just the one year impact.”
In Hobart, nearly 3000 people rallied on the Parliament lawns after the venue was moved from Franklin Square because of the big turnout.
Union leaders told the rally that industrial action would continue until the government overturns its two per cent wage cap.
Community and Public Sector Union secretary Tom Lynch told the rally: “This is what solidarity looks like.
“Today’s not the end, just the start.
“When the biggest employer in the state says there is a cap every other employer listens.
“The two per cent cap is stealing money from every worker in this state.
“The campaign will continue - one day longer than Will Hodgman can handle.”
Australian Education Union secretary Roz Madsen said more work bans would begin next week.
Teacher David Genford said it was not just about the two per cent cap but also teachers’ workloads.
“It is heartbreaking that some teachers are cutting back to four days a week so they can use their day off to plan classes and do marking which means they are doing seven hours’ unpaid work,” he said.
Health and Community Services Union secretary Tim Jacobson was overwhelmed and said the government would be “foolish” to ignore the message the rally sent to them.
“What a turnout?” Mr Jacobson said.
“My message to Mr Hodgman and Mr Gutwein is that you have not experienced how tough we all are and how much fight is in us.”
Unions Tasmania secretary Jessica Munday said the rules for workers were broken.
“Workers are being robbed,” Ms Munday said. “We are becoming a more unequal society with 40 per cent of workers in insecure work.
“I don’t want to look back in 20 years time when my children ask me what I did for job security and capping wages and they are condemned to low wage, dead end jobs.”
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