Teachers vote to walk off job during Year 12 exam week

The SA government has been given until Monday 6 November to meet union demands for better pay and working conditions for teachers.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Effie Carapetis prides herself on supporting the struggles of public school teachers, but the proposed teacher strike set to impact South Australian (SA) Year 12 students during exam week is testing her.

Public school teachers in SA have voted to walk off the job next week, amid year 12 exams, unless the state government brings a better offer on conditions and pay to the negotiation table.

For Ms Carapetis, who is dealing with “a very stressed kid focused on getting great exam results”, the news is adding “another level of panic” to the household mood.

The state’s teachers’ union revealed late on Thursday that its members have voted in favour of a full-day strike on Thursday 9 November if the SA government does not make an improved offer.

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Teachers deserve better, says union

The Australian Education Union SA branch has given the government until Monday, 6 November, to meet its demands. If they don’t, the teacher strike will go ahead.

“Teachers have had enough, no more goodwill,” branch president Andrew Gohl said. Current conditions for educators in SA were, he said, “just sucking teachers dry of time for themselves and time with their families”.

The union’s demands include pay increases of between 5.5 and 8.6 per cent per year until 2026, with extra time away from the classroom for lesson planning and administration also sought.

To date, the government’s offer is a three per cent annual wage rise, with an additional two $1500 payments included amongst some other measures.

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The union’s executive will meet to discuss any government offer on Monday.

Union says no impact on exams

If the proposed strike goes ahead, schools may have to shut for the day or operate with limited programs, depending on how many educators show up for work.

“It’s such a stressful time already for the Year 12 kids,” says Ms Carapetis. “This is adding to it.”

Students will sit tests for physics and accounting on 9 November, with biology and modern history exams scheduled for the following day.

To ease concerns of parents like Ms Carapetis, Mr Gohl said there “will be no impact on exams”.

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“Should any (Year 12) teachers feel like they need to be there to support their students on the day then we understand that,” he said.

It will be second time South Australian teachers have gone on strike in 2023, with the union’s tense negotiations aiming to put pressure on the state government to provide better working conditions and salary for teachers.

When thousands of educators walked off the job on 1 September it forced the closure of 167 public schools and preschools, affecting about 62,000 students.

The AEU has about 12,100 members in SA, although not all work in schools or pre-schools.

The state’s opposition education spokesman John Gardner said most South Australians “would be deeply disappointed” that the union has proposed a strike during the important end-of-year exams.

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“To add uncertainty and disruption to what is already an anxious time for those students is very unfair and will not do the union any favours in winning South Australian hearts and minds,” Mr Gardner said.

In her own daughter’s school, Ms Carapetis says her daughter hasn’t been told yet whether their own teachers will be present, or not, on the day.

“Teachers should be looked after,” she told EducationDaily. “And with the issue about to impact my own daughter, I just hope the government meets their demands and there is no strike.”

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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