Teachers calling for better pay plan industrial action to start new school year

Teachers in WA are planning industrial action to prompt the Department of Education WA to speed up negotiations over pay increases.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Teachers in Western Australia are planning low-level industrial action on day one of the new 2024 school year to call on the government to speed up negotiations on a new industrial agreement.

Last Thursday, 25 January, the State School Teachers’ Union (SSTU) WA issued a directive to the state’s 18,000 teachers to not participate in performance reviews or attend after-hours staff meetings to highlight their frustration at the pace of Department of Education WA negotiations.

The ‘stage one’ action is set to take place from 31 January – the first day students return to WA’s public-school classrooms for the 2024 school year.

The last agreement expired on 5 December 2023, with the union calling for a 12 per cent wage increase over the next two years – seven per cent this year and a further five per cent in 2025.

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The teachers’ agreement is the largest agreement currently being negotiated after the state government pledged to drop its one-size-fits-all pay offer late last year.

Union says student impact will be minimised

SSTU senior vice president Natalie Blewitt says the proposed action is designed to minimise the impact on students, while still making the union’s commitment clear. They want a commitment to a new general agreement that seriously addresses the crisis currently confronting public schools.

The department, she says, needs to accelerate the bargaining to address the core issues that are driving many teachers from the public education sector – as well as address issues identified in recent reviews conducted by both the union and the department.

“The SSTUWA continues to negotiate with the employer on salaries and other aspects of the Log of Claims but have not yet received an offer,” she says.

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“We want to work with the state government to fix education and the first step is an offer that the union can seriously consider.”

Premier wants to avoid student disruption for school year’s start

WA Premier Roger Cook says he respects teachers’ rights to take industrial action but does not want to see the state’s public school students disrupted.

“Any negotiation over an EBA is an important opportunity to understand both the aspirations and the important wages and conditions outcomes that the unions are looking for and that’s what the negotiations are about,” he says.

A Department of Education WA spokeswoman confirmed that, following the release of the government’s new wages policy, the union resubmitted their log of claims on 9 January.

“The department has been bargaining in good faith with the union to reach an agreement and will continue to do so in the best interests of our schools,” she says.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live