Help, I need better working conditions – my health is endangered.
Forty to fifty percent of graduate teachers leave teaching within the first 5 years. Surveys reveal that they feel burnt out, unsupported, frustrated and disillusioned. Research shows that long serving teachers are retiring early (if they can afford to) and most are feeling utterly spent.
The Australian Council For Educational Research (ACER) conducted a survey in 2016, of 13,000 AEU members. It revealed that teachers work around 53 hours a week and principals about 60 hours a week.
The ACER report adds “About one half of support staff are able to complete work during their formal working hours and of those who do work at school outside their paid attendance hours, they typically work an additional 2.6 hours.”
Many long-serving teachers seek individual solutions to the exhausting workload by going part time, if they can get it and if they can afford it. This illustrates that the education system is in a bad way. Teachers, who are members of a union should not have to seek individual solutions.
The survey also revealed that stressed and overworked teachers cannot perform at their best. Consequently students are directly affected and the quality of education is compromised.
Many AEU members enthusiastically participated in drafting a Log of Claims which highlighted the need for improvements in working conditions. They believed that this Log would be taken seriously by our union officials and by the government negotiators.Two claims in the Log, which would have addressed the workload issue were smaller class sizes and a reduction in allottments. Emphasis was continually placed on these as core items at all meetings of rank and file members.
This proposed EBA does NOT give us better working conditions. It does not give us the ability to be the teachers we want to be. The pay rises do not compensate for NO work – life balance.
Our log asked for a reduction of 2 hours per week. That’s 80 hours a year. Additionally, there will be a corresponding reduction in corrections and preparation. Four days – the so called “Professional Practice Days” – add up to only 32 hours a year and we will have to leave work for the classes we are not teaching on those 4 days. Doesn’t sound like much of a win. Our working conditions drag us down daily not just on one day a term.
How to win better conditions, better State Education.
Industrial action is not something we seek out but it is a necessary tool we need to genuinely achieve better outcomes. The State government is in trouble. It is mired in scandals and dealing with other industrial campaigns. The last thing it needs is industrial war with its teachers, especially in the lead up to State elections next year. They want and need a quick resolution. They want industrial peace with us. They won’t take any of the modest offers in this deal off the table, because, they have more to lose than we do. We don’t need to rush, in particular if it means selling ourselves short.
Alongside our industrial campaign we can use a publicity campaign to explain our intentions and actions. Parents get class sizes and how it directly impacts on their kids. They aren’t stupid, they will also get how overworked teachers can’t deliver the best education. In the past we have always received overwhelming and strong public support. We can do this.
For ourselves, for young teachers, for our students, we cannot give up now.
AEU Branch Councillor.