MEMBER for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has thrown his support behind the Australian Education Union’s plight for better pay and work conditions, stating it was crucial to attract quality educators to the region.
Dozens of union members rallied outside Mr Bell’s electoral office yesterday as part of one-hour stopwork action in response to stalled enterprise bargaining between the union and State Government.
Yesterday’s industrial action was the latest in a series of measures taken by the union as a result of the contract deadlock, which has been elevated to the SA Employment Tribunal at the request of treasurer Rob Lucas.
Mr Bell said he supported the campaign for better conditions, adding he would fight for better education outcomes for the future.
“I want to fight for better resources in country schools so we can attract the best teachers possible and retain them long-term,” Mr Bell said.
“If you have high-quality teachers, the outcome will likely be high-quality learners.”
Mr Bell said regional areas faced a significant disadvantage compared to metropolitan schools.
“I think more work needs to be done around encouraging educators to regional areas,” he said.
“I want Mount Gambier to be one of the first choices for graduate teachers to come here, not the last.
“The profession needs to attract the best and the brightest which can be done by paying them well and not below the national average.”
A second conciliation meeting was conducted yesterday by the Employment Tribunal, but union representative Adrian Maywald said there had not yet been a suitable offer.
“We have had a meeting every Thursday since the tribunal was introduced to try and reach our way forwards,” Mr Maywald said.
“Today’s one-hour stoppage is a way to say we are not going anywhere until we have seen a reasonable offer.”
Mr Maywald hoped the letter to Mr Bell would put more pressure on Education Minister John Gardner and other government officials.
“We want to encourage them to step forward and fix this,” he said.
“If we want it to be world-class then we have to get things right.”
The letter outlined Limestone Coast union members’ “frustration” with the “lack of respect” the government had shown to South Australian educators in the contract negotiations.
“A strong and vibrant public education system is the responsibility of the government,” the letter stated.
“Yet, the State Government is failing to fulfil its obligation to invest in its public education, address spiralling workloads and the increasing complex challenges faced in the classroom.
According to the letter, Mount Gambier electorate members had lost faith in Mr Lucas’ capacity to help resolve the dispute.
“We call on (Troy Bell) to raise questions in Parliament as to why Mr Gardner is not actively seeking a resolution,” the letter stated.
“We need his intervention to achieve an agreement that recognises the vital role we play, not only in the education of South Australian students, but also in the social and economic success of South Australia.”
Yesterday’s stoppage follows 15 months of enterprise bargaining between the two parties.
The government has consistently stated it would not increase its offer of 2.35pc salary rises for teachers and 3.35pc for principals, but would negotiate extra funding for matters such as classroom support.