Victorian teachers begin industrial action over excessive workloads

Teachers in Victorian public schools have commenced industrial action to secure a new agreement that reduces excessive workloads and delivers wage justice for the lowest paid staff.

The pandemic and shifts between onsite and remote learning heightened already unsustainable workload pressures. A survey of over 10,000 educators found that teachers are working an average of 53 hours per week, or 15 hours of unpaid overtime.

A concerning 86 per cent of teachers reported their workload was not usually manageable.

School staff have spent 18 months ensuring education continues for students remotely. This has led to new demands and pressures which have challenged meaningful work and home life balance.

Workload pressures are also driven by increased managerial and data driven demands from the Department. Teachers want more time to focus on core teaching and learning with their students.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) is demanding a reduction in face to face teaching hours to enable time for teacher planning, time in lieu for attending out of hours activities, and smaller class sizes.

We are also calling for the lowest paid ES staff (teacher aides and administrative staff) to have substantial wage increases, access to laptops and a paid lunch break.

Despite many negotiating meetings, the Andrews Government has been slow to respond meaningfully around any of the key issues. After 18 months of “doing somersaults” in work practices, school staff are in no mood to be patronised with empty words of gratitude.

In the recent Fair Work ballot to enable industrial action, an impressive 97 per cent voted in favour of action. Over 2100 people have joined the union since the start of term three.

Industrial action work-bans are now being implemented in schools state-wide. Key bans include not attending any more than one hour of scheduled meetings per week, ES members refusing to undertake duties during unpaid lunchbreaks, and a ban on key steps in the NAPLAN online transition program.

The ball is now in the court of the Andrews Government. They have the opportunity to do the right thing by the staff and students of public schools, and improve the conditions of teaching and student learning. The AEU needs to prepare to escalate industrial action through strikes and stopwork action in the new year if the government chooses not to.

Rank-and-file teachers will need to push the union to keep fighting until we win our key demands around workload.

By Hamish McPherson
AEU member and sub-branch delegate

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