May 9 Council Report Back: No Confidence in Minister Burch
On Saturday morning we had an extraordinary show of strength at Branch Council, with 140 councillors and 13 observers in attendance. Council resoundingly rejected Minister Burch's surprise offer which would have stripped thousands of dollars of backpay from teachers, and proposes no actual resources to solve the problem of excessive workload.
Rejection of EA Offer
Amongst the motions passed on Saturday, Branch Council voted to reject the April EA offer, and commence the process for pursuing protected industrial action:
- Branch Council rejects the ACT Government offer of 28 April 2015 for school teachers and school leaders, and authorises the Secretary to commence the application process for a protected industrial action ballot of members.
- Branch Council further requests the Secretary to convene regional meetings of members to discuss the current state of play in negotiations and to explore possibilities for protected industrial action by members.
- Branch Council authorises the Secretary and AEU negotiating team to continue to negotiate with ETD or the Government as it sees fit.
Removing backpay from the new offer is Minister Burch's attempt to punish us for not accepting an offer that is no better than any that came before it. If the Minister has a third offer to make she should make it, preferably to the AEU rather than via the media, but we cannot accept the offer as it currently stands.
No Confidence in Minister Burch
AEU ACT members, have after much deliberation, voted overwhelmingly at Branch Council on Saturday 9th May to a support a motion of no confidence in the Education Minister Joy Burch.
The Motion reads:
AEU ACT Branch Council determines that it has no confidence in ACT Education & Training Minister Joy Burch.
Council asks the Secretary to write to ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to communicate this decision, to request a meeting with him as soon as possible, and to request that the AEU deal with him directly whilst Ms Burch retains the Education & Training portfolio, including on matters pertaining to the current EA negotiations.
It received overwhelming support in a packed auditorium of 140 Councillors who are teachers, school assistants and school leaders across our 86 public schools.
Profound discontent was expressed over the Minister's:
- Bungling of the process to approve non-government schools in 2013, and her inability to provide new guidelines in the last two years as promised.
- Capitulation to the Abbott government on the flawed school chaplaincy program. Despite the Minister's stated intention to retain a secular youth worker option, those positions were terminated, leaving the AEU to lead the defence of the secular traditions of public schooling.
- Her failure to stand up for public school teachers, telling the Assembly in 2014 that we have the lowest workload in the country, and then when confronted with the statistic that ACT teachers work a national high of 50 hours per week, implied that this was because independent school teachers brought the average up.
- Her weeks of inaction on the urgent request by staff in a special school to have nurses in place to deal with the complex medical needs of high needs students, and then deferring the matter to the health directorate despite it involving schools in her Directorate.
- Her botching of the current Enterprise Agreement process, making two surprise offers, the second of which through the media. She has reverted now to the bizarre position that the current offer tabled in writing with teachers is not the final offer, and that apparently the onus is on teachers to ask for the back pay that she stripped away. There is utter confusion and the Minister has taken to speaking in riddles.
Further, we understand the Minister is planning to dismantle the specific advisory group for public schooling, the Government Schools Education Council.
Teachers, school assistants and school leaders feel very strongly that the Minister is not working in their interests.
We remain committed to political engagement to ensure our members’ views are heard, however the value in continuing political and industrial discourse with the current Education Minister has diminished so markedly that our members no longer see any value in continuing that line of communication.
We have written to the Chief Minister on this matter and have sought an urgent meeting. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to speak to your Councillor.
Unacceptable Ratio of School Psychologists to Students
Reports suggest that the school psychologist to student ratio in the ACT is currently greater than 1 to 1000. Considering the NSW Coroner recently recommended a ratio of 1 to 500, the status quo cannot be allowed to continue. Branch Council voted to follow NSW in reducing this ratio:
Branch Council asserts that there is currently one School Psychologist for every 1060 students in the ACT and demands that the ACT Government follows the lead of NSW in establishing, in the first instance, funding for a School Psychologist to student ratio of 1 to 750. Council requests that AEU negotiators place this matter back on the EA negotiating table.
Concern About Proposed Student Report System
There was an overwhelming feeling amongst councillors that ETD's consultation on the new student report system has been inadequate. The following motion was passed unanimously:
Council asks the Secretary to communicate to ETD that the AEU is opposed to implementation of the proposed new student report system until such time that comprehensive consultation across the profession is completed to the AEU’s satisfaction. After consultation has occurred the details of the consultation are to be provided to the AEU.