Wednesday, January 28, 2004

WA teachers to vote on new agreement

WA teachers to vote on new agreement
By Chris Latham

On January 16, the Western Australian branch of the Australian Education Union indicated that it will recommend acceptance of a new offer negotiated between the AEU and the state education department for a certified agreement (CA).

While the new offer gives some staff wage increases of up to 14% over three years, this applies predominantly to teachers in administrative positions; the majority of teachers will receive 9.2% over three years, only a slight increase of the original offer of 9% and well short of AEU's claim of 30%.

However, throughout the campaign the AEU executive had said it was willing to accept a lower wage rise in return for movement on other key concerns of members. These included the time allocated to duties other than teaching (DOTT) for primary teachers, class sizes and measures to encourage the retention of graduate teachers in the public education system.

The new offer will increase DOTT for primary teachers by 20 minutes in 2005, and commits the department to make further increases in the next and future CAs to move towards equity with secondary teachers.

The offer also allows for reduction in class sizes to 28 students for year 8 and year 9 classes in 30 schools, adding to the 45 high schools included in the 2000 CA. Similar class reductions will occur for years 4-7 in 200 primary schools over 2004 and 2005.

The offer also provides for reductions in the teaching loads for lower level administrative staff.

A January 16 AEU press release stated that the executive "considers that this agreement delivers an acceptable response to members' concerns about working conditions including class sizes".

However, a number of rank-and-file AEU members have told Green Left Weekly that they felt that these gains may not outweigh the concession made on wages, particularly considering the industrial activity taken by AEU members, including the half-day and full-day stoppages in September and November.

They noted that a number of the elements that are now seen as acceptable by the executive in the new offer, particularly primary DOTT, have not moved forward on the department's September offer.

AEU members will vote on the new CA in the early weeks of first term, which begins on February 2.

From Green Left Weekly #568.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Rail unionists drive for a better deal

By Chris Latham

Train drivers on Perth's metropolitan rail-lines stopped work for four hours on January 11 to discuss the Rail, Tram and Bus Union's campaign for a new enterprise agreement. RTBU rail division secretary Bob Christison told Green Left Weekly that 65% of train drivers who are union members attended the stop-work meeting.

The RTBU claim calls for a wage rise of 20% over two years compared to the government's offer of 6.5% over the same period. In addition to the wage rise, the RTBU's log of claims is aimed at improving working conditions. Two key issues that have emerged during the campaign are workers' toilet breaks and the number of guards on night trains.

The timing of drivers' toilet breaks has become an issue due to a number of safety incidents at stations and railway crossings. When these incidents occur, trains can be heldup for an extended time and drivers do not have access to toilets. Consequently, in September last year, the RTBU directed drivers to take toilet breaks prior to beginning a section, rather than at the end of it. The Public Transport Authority, however, demanded the RTBU lift the directive.

When the union refused, the authority sought orders from the WA Industrial Relations Commission to end the practice and threatened to suspend enterprise bargaining negotiations. The authority has opposed breaks prior to journeys because it claims that on a number of occasions it has delayed train departures. Christison told GLW that one driver was quizzed about her toilet breaks. In response the RTBU held stop work meetings on November 25.

The RTBU members are pushing for increased guard numbers on night trains, to resolve concerns over public safety. Currently, two guards travel on all trains after 7pm, but as Christison told the January 13 West Australian, trains "could be left without a guard if a passenger became unruly and required an escort to the nearest station".

On January 11, the union implemented work bans directing drivers to stop trains if guards leave the train. If these bans are still in place on January 26, it is possible that there will be disruption to the fireworks event that day, which is Perth's biggest single-day public transport load.

From Green Left Weekly #567.

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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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