Illegal TAFE strike will go ahead

TAFE teachers on the Northern Rivers will go on strike today, joining thousands of others across NSW who are angry with the Department of Education and Training’s proposed working conditions.

The Lismore meeting will be held at the Lismore City Hall dance studio from 10.30am.

Co-ordinator Kathy Nicholson said the meeting was going ahead as planned, despite comments by NSW Premier Kristina Keneally that the strike was ‘illegal’.

“I’m not sure how many people we are expecting in Lismore, but we are hoping to get a very good number,” she said.

“The Premier says our strike is illegal and certainly we’re defending a very unfair decision made by Industrial Relations Commission.”

The Department of Education and Training wants teachers to be at work for 35 hours a week, up from 30 hours, in return for a maximum salary of more than $81,000 a year.

This equates to a 12 per cent pay rise over three years.

But Ms Nicholson said the proposed deal was ‘Work Choices for TAFE teachers’.

“Teachers don’t magically walk into classrooms – they need to prepare,” she said.

“It takes one hour to prepare for one hour of delivery.

“So these changes will significantly impact on the quality of teachers’ work.

“We are not accepting it.

“We’ll be campaigning right up to the next election if we don’t get a satisfactory response.”

NSW Teachers Federation president, Bob Lipscombe, has called on Premier Kristina Keneally to meet with the union ‘immediately’ to negotiate a settlement.

But Ms Keneally has refused to negotiate with the union any further.

NSW Education Minister Verity Firth yesterday said NSW’s TAFE teachers were already the highest paid in the country and received 11 weeks holiday a year.

The Industrial Relations Commission had ordered the Teachers Federation not to take industrial action for three months.

IRC president, Justice Robert Boland, said the union had waged a ‘dishonest campaign’.

Bur Mr Lipscombe said the department wanted to be able to roster teachers on Monday to Saturday any time between 6am and 10pm and to hold back overtime pay for up to six months.

The row between the Teachers Federation and the government started in 2009 when teachers won a pay rise of four per cent – 1.5 per cent above the State Government’s public sector wage cap.

The Department of Education and Training applied to the Industrial Relations Commission to increase teaching hours as a productivity trade-off for the increase.

The IRC found in favour of the DET on October 15.

The Teachers Federation appealed the decision in the NSW Court of Appeal in early December last year.

The appeal was rejected.

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