Queensland teachers dispute in arbitration limbo

As Queensland teachers geared up for a state-wide strike, Queensland’s Labor Government has used the state’s industrial laws to drive the wage dispute into the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. 
The Commission, in turn, on August 3, initiated arbitration of the dispute, which denies teachers the right to take protected industrial action.
The teachers’ union leadership accepted the Commission’s direction to call off planned industrial action, but says a protest campaign will continue.
Around 600 angry teachers gathered outside Parliament House on August 5 to stage an after-school protest at the government’s move. Protests have been held outside other schools across the state.
There is every indication that arbitration will be a drawn out process and teachers have already been waiting 17 months since their last pay rise. The union has made an application for an interim 4 per cent pay rise.
But teachers have been demanding 18 per cent over the next three years to bring them into line with interstate teachers’ wages. However, there is every reason to believe that arbitration will not deliver such a pay rise.
One teacher told Solidarity that he thought the union leadership had been too quick to call off the strike. “Even if the union ran the risk of fines, it would be a risk worth taking,” he said, “If the government can bury this dispute we will lose five or six years of wage increases. And they are taking away our right to strike.”
The Bligh government’s popularity has plunged dramatically since its election win in April. Its move to privatise some railways and ports is massively unpopular and reports of police and crony corruption has severely damaged Anna Bligh’s clean image.
It is doubtful the government would have taken action to fine teachers for a strike that has widespread teacher and community support. 
Meanwhile teacher anger is also growing over national testing plans and many were outraged when the Courier Mail published school performance league tables.
The government’s push for arbitration has taken the heat off for the time being, but the dispute is a long way from being settled. A teacher at a protest in Ipswich said she was disgusted at the way teachers were being treated by the state government.
By Ian Rintoul


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