By Chris Latham
PERTH — On March 12, the Western Australian state executive of the Australian Education Union (AEU) announced that its members had voted to accept the government's certified agreement (CA) offer.
The government offer includes a 9.9% wage increase over three years and improvements in a number of working conditions such as reduced class sizes in some schools. Of the 8776 AEU members who voted on the offer, 58% voted to accept, while 42% voted against.
The number who voted represents about two thirds of those who participated in the AEU's one-day strike on November 18.
On March 12, WA AEU branch president Mike Keely said that Premier Geoff Gallop's Labor government had done "serious damage" to itself as a result of its contemptuous attitude to the teachers' CA campaign. He called on the government "to start treating teachers with more respect".
Instead, that same day the government launched a new attack on WA's 20,000 public school teachers, when the recently established College of Teachers announced that it would establish a minimum dress code for teachers.
Education minister Alan Carpenter claimed that it was necessary to institute a dress code because "too many teachers" were wearing "thongs and jeans". Carpenter told ABC TV's Stateline program "there is a real struggle going on to maintain confidence in public education. People have been taking their kids out and putting them into non-government schools."
Carpenter's comments make it clear that the government is keen to distract attention from the real cause of declining conditions in the state school system — inadequate funding — by attributing the loss of public confidence to the behaviour of public school teachers — the very people who are holding the system together.
From Green Left Weekly #576
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
By Chris Latham