Teachers vote for 24-hour strike

Lismore-area public school teachers vote to take further industrial action against proposed changes to the way teachers are appointed to schools.

Around 200 teachers from Lismore-area public schools voted in favour of a 24-hour strike next month in a bid to pressure the state government to drop its controversial changes to the way teachers are appointed to schools.

The teachers held a two-hour stop-work meeting on Tuesday morning at the Lismore Turf Club in a satellite-TV link-up with thousands of other public school teachers around the state, who voted overwhelmingly to step up their fight against the plans, which they say attack the rights of teachers and students and threaten rural schools.

They agreed to a 24-hour strike on Thursday, May 22.

Lismore-based NSW Teachers Federation North Coast organiser Nicole Major said the proposed changes, which allow principals to directly hire staff, undermined the good will of teachers. Currently the Department of Education decides staff transfers.

Schools operate on good will if we all worked just to our position descriptions like they want us to do, that good will would not exist teachers would not help students out with after-hours activities such as band practice or team sports, Ms Major said.

The minister is proposing to dismantle a statewide staffing system based on transfers that ensures teacher supply to over 2000 schools, especially to those that are difficult to staff because of geographical location and other factors that impinge on a schools ability to attract and retain staff.

Ms Major said Education Minister John Della Bosca failed to understand that increasing some schools capacity to locally select their teachers will actually reduce the capacity of hundreds of other schools to attract and retain qualified teachers.

Under current arrangements, we have stability and security at a time of teacher shortage in other states and overseas, she said.

Transfers maintain the supply lines to all schools, especially those that are not as attractive as those schools in preferred locations on the coast or in the city. After a specified period of time, teachers service in these harder to staff schools is recognised and rewarded through a transfer.

Importantly, transfers also underpin a teachers right to permanent employment, as distinct from a limited tenure, contract-based employment.

In the wake of the defeat of a federal Coalition government that sought to impose local hire and fire, individual contracts (AWAs), performance pay and limited tenure, teachers are justifiably angry that a state Labor government could now be setting the groundwork for the same agenda.

But Mr Della Bosca said the changes would give teachers more opportunities to apply for different positions while communities will get a say on who should fill those vacancies.

It is a modest change that will strengthen public education and allow schools to match the right teacher for each classroom, Mr Della Bosca said.

The existing transfer system remains an option, or principals can advertise for qualified teachers.

The changes do not affect priority transfers, so teachers from remote schools are still able to transfer out if they choose.

Mr Della Bosca said when his department advertised teacher vacancies on a small scale last year, 320 teaching positions attracted more than 14,000 applications all over the state.

Schools can continue to use the current transfer system if they choose, but we know many school communities and many teachers want the choice, he said.

Teachers Federation president Maree OHalloran said the strike could be averted if the government agreed to resume talks on its plan.

Ms OHalloran said 99 per cent of teachers who attended the statewide meetings had voted to endorse the strike.

Lismore Teachers Association secretary Gae Masters told The Echo she was very encouraged by the large turnout at the meeting saying it was not going to be an easy fight and staff have to be united to defeat the proposals.

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