Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Brightest Day or Blackest Night?

I am conflicted.

But first, thank you for reading my blogs throughout the campaign. Your support been appreciated. From the first blog in June until now I had triple the amount of views. The last blog in February had more than 1500 views. Your messages of support helped me, and my colleagues, through the campaign.

And here we are.


In each blog I was clear - this was never about the money. I said so to motivate my colleagues, to educate the lay person on why we had to fight for a better deal, and on why we inconvenienced parents and students for three-and-a-half days. I meant every single word. More money would be nice. But I saw this as an opportunity to advance our profession. Our log of claims had more provisions that would improve our conditions than it did details about money. I had hope we could take a stand and push teaching well into the 21st Century. That's why I call it a profession - it is more than a mere job or career. It is a calling. It is a noble occupation - one of service and one critical to our development as a society. The best of us are amongst the kindest, more generous and selfless people in the country. We deserve to be treated as such and be able to work in conditions that allow us to excel at our profession.

My expectations have not changed at all.  That is why I am conflicted. My government and my union do not share my expectations.

The government is only concerned with where they can save money. That's why they gutted the regional offices, cut VCAL funding and look to put up performance pay and make it available to only a fixed amount of staff - regardless of overall school performance. (Allow me to digress for a moment - performance standards should be maintained, enforced and developed. Hell perhaps there should be bonuses. But this is not what the government suggested, nor did they put up for a model for what the performance standards would look like. It was dollars and cents - nothing else.) The government has shown no interest in our welfare or creating conditions that would allow us to educate every single kid. Instead we will remain overworked and under resourced. Quite simply - this government does not care about our students or the people we entrust them too everyday. School improvement does not fit the election cycle, nor is it sexy for the TV.

Sadly my union is no better. The campaign was flawed from the start and treated the public like idiots. Instead of promoting our conditions they focused solely on the "best paid in the country" election promise. Politicians lie - especially when seeking re-election. Highlighting this does not court the public's sympathy or support. And it sets us up for failure. When you publicly campaign on the prospect of increased wages you better deliver. The proposed agreement does not give us 30% over three years. It does not give us all 12% over three years either (our revised offer). The figures quoted by the union include the automatic 2.75% from the previous agreement (for not having a new agreement by January 1, 2012). It include the $1000 sign-on bonus. Which is great - I lost just under $900 in pay for striking. At my current pay level I'll end up with around 10% more by 2016. Which I will take.

What I won't take is the conditions. Class sizes are the same (we wanted them lower). Face-to-face hours are the same (we should have wanted them lower). There have been changes to the excess rules which will save the government money because more expensive, experienced teachers will not be able to transfer to another school if their school downsizes or closes. This is great news for the thousand graduates looking for a job. Not so great for the hundreds who have been displaced already. There have been no changes to the situation with contracts. This was a central part of our campaign (as it was in 2004 and 2008) and we have made no progress. Monitoring contracts does not mean a thing - they are monitored now. Maintaining the status quo is fine if you're satisfied with the status quo. And here in lies the problem.

The worst part if the agreement has (as it was in 2008) been presented to the public as a win. From this there is no turning back. It was released to members, finally, on Friday afternoon. Confusingly the government also called it a win and quoted different figures! The public's patience has been stretched by our strikes, the government's stubbornness and the fact that a lot of people don't rate what we do.

Here is the conflict. We vote NO and reject a pretty shitty deal and we probably spend another year negotiating. The government does not want to give us more money - which is why they have not in the proposed deal. The public will not support us through more strikes and don't even notice the other bans we had in place with the exception of reports. The 38 hour week? My school cancelled exactly one event - and it was one that teachers barely attended anyway. Teachers don't like to do things that disadvantage students. Our hearts are just too big. And that's why the campaign is over. 

If we vote YES we accept the deal and the conditions. This is great if you're fine with how things are now. It is basically the same. We have made no progress and, to be honest, the union is not interested in this either. I doubt most teachers are interested in it. But they should be. We allowed them to run a campaign about the pay, and allowed factions to debate the place of entertainment in our rallies. It is time we expect more of ourselves and our officials.

The answer then lies with the teachers. If you want to be treated like a professional you need to act like one and we, as a profession, need start holding each other to a higher standard. Most importantly we need to hold our government and our union to that standard. If we want progress then it will come from us. We deserve to be paid and treated as if we are being entrusted to enrich and develop the next generation. We must work to convince others, including our union leaders, that this is what we want.

But not this battle. This campaign is done. We have a government and union that are only interested in dollars and cents.

I am conflicted on how I will vote for this agreement. I don't see the point in voting NO, but barely agree with the YES.

I am clear about what I expect from my government and my union. When the time comes I will vote accordingly on both.

We are a great profession. We need to remind them of it.

I want this profession to move forward. And I will continue to fight for conditions that are better for our children.

Do me a favour. This week write to a teacher (current or former). You can find them on facebook no doubt. Express your gratitude. Their union and our government has kicked them - pick them up again. Trust me, we rarely get acknowledged for what we do. If you know someone who deserves send them a quick note. 

"People should not be afraid of their governments - Governments should be afraid of their people."
Thank you for your support.


  1. Glad to read your thoughts, KD. The compensation of my old age is that I've seen it going round and round over the past 30 something years. We have actually got smaller class sizes than when I started - we had 32 back then. In the '80s the kids I taught - and I'm still in the same area - were similar; class management was similar. Those kids were just more literate in terms of 'book learning' whereas current kids are generally more tech savvy - well some of them.
    You're right about the best of us being the kindest, most generous etc.
    Suppose that's why I was marking essays in the middle of the night!

  2. Couldn't have said it better Kristian...
    There is a lot of work that needs to be done in this profession - although probably not as much as our government.
    Their thinking is BACKWARDS.. Didn't their teachers every teach these politicians about education and justice? They're dumbing down our society and all we can do is watch, while pushing rocks up the hill.
    We need to get our kids thinking more about politics in Australi(how embarassing they are) and teach them the social justice our politicians have missed out on. As they will be our leaders of the future ;)