As we gear up for enterprise bargaining, we will be taking a closer look at some of the items in our log of claims for the school teaching staff agreement and why they matter. First up is salaries. Teachers' salaries must maintain national competitiveness.
The wage crisis in this country is real. Australians are paying more to see a doctor, more for childcare, more for electricity and gas – and wage increases are not keeping up. Over the last year, the price of electricity has increased 520% faster than wage growth.
With the minimum wage in Australia slipping rapidly down the OECD rankings, and employers signing half as many agreements with employees as three years ago, there is no question that without change, the future is bleak.
When agreements are being negotiated, they are resulting in an average wage increase of just 2.2%. In the private sector, newly approved agreements have hit a 25 year low of 2.4%, significantly below the 3.5% wage increase negotiated between employers and workers in September 2014. The government has predicted inflation will rise from 1.9% to 2.25% by next year, which could leave some workers with a pay cut in real terms.
Educators are still at the top end of the scale when it comes to pay increases. This doesn't happen by accident. Across the country, our union fights for these increases to ensure educators are paid fairly and at a rate that reflects the invaluable work they do.
In 2011, ACT public school teachers waged a committed campaign that resulted in our top-of-the scale teachers moving from the worst paid of the eight Australian jurisdictions to the third best paid. Through bargaining in 2014, our union was able to maintain our position at Number 3 at the start of the current agreement. We must accept nothing less than the maintenance of the Number 3 position in the new agreement. In fact, we should be aiming higher.
Last year, after long and difficult negotiations, Victorian teachers won a pay rise of 13% over four years. Data suggests that this result has heavily influenced agreements negotiated in other sectors across Victoria, so that workers there are more likely to get a pay rise than anywhere else in the country. This trend demonstrates just why it so important for us to fight for these conditions, not just for ourselves, but for our fellow Australians.
We take very seriously our responsibility, on behalf of all Australian workers, to fight for a fair share of the pie, and particularly for educators, who are perennially undervalued. We will explore all of our options to ensure we get the highest possible increase in salaries.