The Australian Education Union last night rejected the state government’s latest pay deal within hours, and said teachers would go on strike on Thursday unless the deal estimated to be worth about $1.4 billion was increased.
The AEU led a first strike on September 1, which led to around 170 schools closing across the state.
The union announced the second strike on its website, saying teachers would rally outside the Education Department’s Flinders St office at 11.30am on Thursday before marching to Parliament House.
This morning, Premier Peter Malinauskas ruled out boosting the current offer, saying there was “no way that the government can accommodate their 8 per cent-plus pay increase” being demanded by the union.
Education Minister Blair Boyer said yesterday that the latest deal would have lifted teachers’ pay by 4 per cent in the first year, 3 per cent in the second year and 2.5 per cent in the third year.
It would also have increased non-instruction time as demanded by the AEU, to be phased in over seven years.
But AEU branch president Andrew Gohl said the new offer was “essentially the same, if not worse, than the last” and did not include two $1500 one-off payments.
“Since taking industrial action in September, we have been negotiating with the Government and expected today’s offer to reflect those discussions. It is disappointing to see such contempt,” he said.
“Under these conditions, teachers in some schools still won’t see any real workload relief for seven years, and by that time, half will have already left the profession. The meagre 0.5 per cent difference in salary will see some educators worse off in real terms.”
Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said there was “no point” in making another offer under the circumstances.
“Mr Gohl has said that he’s not going to continue negotiating and that the strike is happening,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“If Mr Gohl wants to get back around the table to continue negotiations, well that is absolutely the government’s position and we’re absolutely happy to do that.
“We were asked to put in an offer by yesterday at three o’clock, which we did to avoid strike action. We’ve met those demands of the AEU and they’re striking anyway. Now we want to get back around the table. Mr Gohl said that he doesn’t want to get back around the table, he wants to go through with a strike that nobody in the South Australian community wants except him and his executive.”
Mullighan labelled the strike action as “unnecessary” and “contrary to what he has told South Australians publicly he would do for the last two weeks”.
“We want to resolve this and get a fair and decent pay rise for teachers in recognition of the extraordinary hard work that they do in their schools, but Mr Gohl needs to stay true to his word and he needs to continue negotiating in good faith,” he said.
“This is the first time I’ve seen an industrial leader like this say one thing very publicly, make a commitment to the government both publicly and privately, and then not hold up their end.
“We expect to be subject to firm and robust negotiations with industrial leaders on behalf of their workforce, but we also expect for people to stay true to their words. We’re asking Mr Gohl to stay good to his word, make good on the pledges that he made to the South Australian community over the last two weeks and continue negotiating rather than go through with a strike.”
Malinauskas said he was “disappointed by the conduct of the union leadership”.
“They said publicly that an improved offer would allow them time to consider and go away and do the work. We put an approved offer to them early yesterday afternoon and then a few hours later they’re out on strike again,” he told FIVEaa.
“If they wanted to reject our offer, that’s clearly an option available to them, but what they should at least do is put a counter-offer to us.
“Instead, it was this rush to a strike which I think is unfortunate not for the government, but for parents out there who are now left wondering about what happens on Thursday – let alone the year 12 students who are going to be sitting their exams on Thursday.”
The Premier said there was “no way” the government could match the 8 per cent pay increase being demanded by the AEU.
“It is simply beyond the capacity of the budget to be able to absorb a cost that amounts to billions of dollars while at the same time we as a state government are investing very heavily in the public education system,” the Premier said.
“I’m still willing to negotiate in good faith – we are going to be the responsible, reasonable actors here – but it’ll be the South Australian community who ultimately judge the actions of both the government but also the union in this instance and I’m being very frank about what our position is.”
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