Australian Teachers’ Union leader concedes to government pay cut offensive
New South Wales Teachers’ Federation (NSWTF) President Angelo Gavrielatos delivered a videotaped speech to public school teachers on Wednesday. He made it clear that the union would not oppose the substantial reduction in real wages imposed by the Liberal state government through the pro-business Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).
Gavrielatos’ speech was prompted by an IRC hearing on finalizing an award for NSW teachers, including a nominal pay rise of just 2.53%. This is a decline in real terms as official inflation is 6.1%, and is expected to reach 7.75% by the end of the year.
Gavrielatos told the teachers that the government wanted to impose this pay cut over a three-year period and that their “legal team” would do “everything possible to avoid the government’s desired outcome”. This amounted to demands at the IRC hearing for the new award to be spread over a period of two years, instead of three.
Foreshadowing an IRC decision that delivers whatever the government wants, and raising the white flag in advance, Gavrielatos said the IRC “cannot operate outside the corrupt legal parameters set by the government on the salary cap. And as you also know, the IRC is unable to deal with issues related to your workload. »
Instead of outlining any form of strategy to combat Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet and his anti-public education agenda, Gavrielatos effectively said the NSWTF will do nothing until March 2023, when it will campaign for the Labor Party during national elections. The current government, he complained, had “no desire to provide what is needed”. Therefore, he continued, “We have no choice but to make our problems an election issue. To take this to the fringe seats where it will be decided in March. We need to pressure every candidate to reveal what they will do in the face of the teacher shortage and ensure teachers have what we need for the future.
The NSWTF bureaucracy is trying to redirect the anger and hostility of the masses over the conditions faced by teachers into a campaign platform for the state’s Labor Party.
Gavrielatos said the union had “made progress” with the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and he promoted opposition leader Chris Minns saying there was a “written commitment… that workloads will be lower and wages higher under a Minns government – that’s a start.”
Such Labor promises are worthless. The NSW Labor opposition actively supports the Perrottet government. Minns opposes workers’ demands for better conditions, including rejecting calls by striking nurses for better patient ratios.
Minns argues that all salary increases should be “negotiated based on productivity,” that is, tied to increased workload. Even in the so-called ‘written commitment’ to teachers, Minns insisted that all negotiations with the NSWTF would be subject to ‘NSW budget protection’.
It will be the main concern of the next state government after the March election, whether Labor or the Liberals win. NSW’s budget deficit has reached $11.3 billion, with net debt expected to top $114 billion by the 2025-26 financial year. This is the highest budget deficit of any state after Victoria. Finance capital and big business insist on an austerity program to return the budget to surplus, with cuts in public spending, including cuts in the real wages of public sector workers.
In Victoria, the Labor government of Daniel Andrews oversaw this process. He worked closely with the Australian Education Union (AEU) earlier this year to impose a real pay cut on state school teachers. The four-year deal imposed in the face of massive hostility from teachers and school staff involved a nominal base salary increase of less than 2%.
Gavrielatos’ public speech was part of a so-called “day of action” called by the NSWTF. Rejecting teachers’ calls for a strike, the bureaucracy staged an hour-long rally outside the IRC building beginning at 7:30 a.m. This only involved between 200 and 300 teachers – as one might s Unexpectedly, tens of thousands of overworked public school teachers rejected the union’s invitation to join a rally before rushing to their schools before the morning bell.
The NSWTF also encouraged teachers to wear red throughout the day and post photos on social media. This stunt was met with fury by teachers who took to social media to express their anger. A teacher received more than 150 likes on the union’s Facebook page for writing: “This ‘action’ suggests the NSWTF thinks teachers have time off before work, the exact opposite of what we are fighting for the government and community recognize.
Another teacher replied, “I was ready for real action that will have an impact. It will be a stain on the radar… I am disappointed and disillusioned with the federation this time around. I hope that the promise of a delay in release and a pittance in salary will comfort me after the adoption of this decision.
The union is sitting on a powder keg. Teachers in New South Wales, like their counterparts across the country, face a crumbling public school system, mountains of paperwork, growing classroom sizes and a massive shortage of resources. ‘teachers. This has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected thousands of teachers and students, as educators and their families face the prospect of infection, long-term health issues and of deceased.
Notably, the pandemic was not mentioned once in the union video. This was by design, as the NSWTF worked closely with the Perrottet government to impose the homicidal “let it rip” agenda, the keystone of which was the reopening of schools.
Following the December 2021 statewide public teachers’ strike, the first in a decade, called by unions for fear they will not be able to control the growing anger below the surface, the NSWTF has announced a non-strike commitment for the first quarter of 2022. gives carte blanche to the Perrottet government to force the return of face-to-face teaching.
This became the model for the NSWTF. After two more limited strikes earlier this year, he announced no strike promises while calling on the government to negotiate in good faith. This only emboldened Perrottet, who launched an ideological offensive against the public school system in New South Wales, including a host of reactionary measures such as performance pay for teachers.
These experiences demonstrate that teachers need to take their struggle out of the hands of the union bureaucracy. Gavrielatos, who receives an annual salary and benefits of $254,000, and his fellow wealthy bureaucrats do not represent teachers’ interests. Rank-and-file committees must be formed in every school and community, bringing together educators from public and private Catholic schools, as well as the thousands of public sector workers across the state, as well as teachers across the country. The fight must be directed not only against the Perrottet government, but against the Federal Labor government of Anthony Albanese.
Teachers, staff, parents and students are invited to contact the Committee for Public Instruction (CFPE), which is campaigning for this perspective.