Ballarat teachers set to strike

MANY Ballarat students will have only two-and-a-half hours of school today, as teachers, principals and support staff continue their fight for better pay and conditions.

Hundreds of Australian Education Union (AEU) members will participate in a half-day strike and rally in Lydiard Street as part of rolling statewide industrial action.

AEU Victorian Branch deputy president Meredith Peace said the incredibly high workload of all staff in schools, pay discrepancies between the states and the high level of contract employment were among the issues facing Victorian teachers.

Ms Peace said all government schools around Ballarat were involved in today’s 10am rally in front of Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay’s Lydiard Street office.

For parents across the city, still scrambling yesterday to make arrangements for their children, news of yet another disruption to school provoked mixed reactions.

Mount Clear Primary School Parents and Friends Association vice-president Michelle Pryor said days off school seemed to be an increasing occurrence.

“From a personal point of view it’s frustrating the kids are missing more school,” she said.

Ms Pryor said she believed a lot of teachers were struggling morally between their support for the campaign and their feelings for the kids — particularly when it came to the union’s ban on comments in report cards.

“The kids have put in a lot of hard work over the year and to not have any comment or any result ... it’s distressing to the child not knowing how they’re going,” she said.

“Parents are supportive of what the teachers are doing and they agree with what the teachers are after but the fact that it has come to this point is not a good thing.”

Redan father Steve Murnane said his son had school from 12:45 to 3:10pm today — just two hours and 25 minutes.

“What’s the point?” he said.

“They get to school just after lunch and they’ve had most of the morning off. They’re not going to be focused.”

Mr Murnane said he supported what the teachers were trying to achieve, but a speedy resolution was needed.

Mr Ramsay said that under the government’s offer, the top performing teachers in Victoria would become the best-paid teachers in Australia, earning more than $100,000 a year, while all teachers would retain generous conditions.

“Tasmanian teachers accepted wage increases of two per cent a year in July, and this month Queensland and South Australian teachers have accepted pay rises of 2.7 per cent and three per cent respectively,” he said.

“The Victorian teachers union continues to seek pay rises outside community and industry standards.”

He said it was unacceptable for teachers to place the educational progress of students at risk

“If parents don’t receive comments on reports — they are not in a position to give their children the extra help they need at home, “ he said.