Essential Workers Campaign Barnstorm

Save teachers from sinking into ‘pedagogical quicksand’

Union members representing essential workers from all walks of life gathered at Revesby Workers Club on Sunday, 19 March for a campaign barnstorm to voice their opposition to the Perrottet government.

In the lead up to the election, the Essential Workers Campaign, spearheaded by Unions NSW, held a series of actions highlighting the way essential workers such as teachers, nurses, transport workers, early childhood educators, paramedics and many others have been short-changed by the NSW Liberal Government.

The Barnstorm was attended by a significant contingent of IEU members and organisers. Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said essential workers had given their “utmost” during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Government had “patted them on the back with one hand while putting the other hand in their back pocket”.

Many essential workers spoke at the meeting, including IEU President, Tina Ruello. Tina explained how Catholic employers had been relying on the artificially imposed NSW Liberal Government pay cap to avoid fair negotiations with Catholic teachers and support staff.

Tina said teachers, especially early career teachers, were exhausted and in danger of sliding into “pedagogical quicksand” of overwork and under pay.

“Our employer will not move on our pay and conditions until the public sector does.

Schools “may have a Catholic badge, but there is nothing charitable or merciful or just about our employer when it comes to paying teachers and support staff what we deserve and what we’re worth.

“We are fighting our employer for every dollar. Thank God for our union, the IEU, which has won every pay and working conditions claim. I have 35 years of experience to vouch for that.

“Support staff have it tough in Catholic systemic schools. They perform the same level of work as their counterparts in state government schools. But they’re paid less. Considerably.

“The situation in schools is past serious; it’s dangerous. There is a teacher shortage. We have known this for years.

“Combining classes means a class of 30 now blows out to 60 or 70. This compromises duty of care. The teacher to student ratio is untenable. There are teachers standing in between classrooms where online learning is supposed to be happening.

“Early career teachers are called on out of goodwill – for the love of it – to take on extracurricular activities because there is no one left to take them. They soon realise that it is just not worth it. There is no extra pay or job security attached to debating or Duke of Edinburgh or dance troupe.

“Being a teacher is just too hard. The pay and conditions are poor.

“Young people are not signing up for education degrees and those that do, give up halfway. Those who do complete degrees, enter schools with enthusiasm and vision. Of those graduates, 50 per cent will leave within five years. I have witnessed this.

“Unsustainable workloads and administrivia compliance and a freeze on wages all come together to ruin a great career and great profession.”