Victoria's teachers take massive strike action
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by Jim H.
The impressive Victorian teachers' strike, mass meeting and rally on 14 February in Melbourne, marked a new chapter of the ongoing battle to defend the public education system.
It was also about improving wages and conditions, not only as a right for teachers, but also as an important factor for lifting morale and ensuring the teaching outcomes that young students deserve. A great example has been set for all working Australians.
By the time of the meeting many more than 10,000 had filled Hisense Arena to capacity. A large crowd had to stay outside and participate via video link. Another successful meeting was held in Mildura. It was clear that the mood amongst teachers is to fight and take on whatever is necessary to win through. The mood is militant.
The Australian Education Union's carefully developed strategy was overwhelmingly endorsed. This is based on the necessity for this to be long term strategy, based on the need to isolate the main target, that is, the Victorian Coalition Government, by winning and maintaining the support of the majority of Victorians.
To this end a period of local activities, geared to garner local support and involvement is a major aspect of the current period. Emphasis will be put on marginal electorates. While there is some concern about the danger of being limited by parliamentary politics, in this case the method is justified as a means of putting pressure on the government.
Some critics have said that this amounts to subservience to the Labor Party. It is a wrong view. Of course, this must also involve other action. The main thing is to encourage the growth of local community activity in defence of schools and support for the rights of teachers.
There will be a range of rolling half day stoppages. Teachers at the mass meetings overwhelmingly gave support to the strategy put forward by the Australian Education Union.
March on Parliament
There was a 30,000 strong march to Parliament House, with the sea of the union's red tee-shirts making an impressive sight that drew in many Melbournians. The march then joined with the Independent Education Union, whose members were taking their own action. This builds on the last rally in November 2012 that drew similar numbers.
Representatives of a range of other unions covering diverse industries gave their support to the teacher's efforts. The united purpose was to deliver a loud message to the government.
Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Brian Boyd told the assembled crowd that Trades Hall was behind them all the way and ended with the words “you cannot lose.”
A good foundation
In terms of the immediate industrial dispute, it is vital to focus on the immediate enemy and take advantage of all contradictions. The major successes of the campaign so far are the high level of community support and a capacity to bring out more than half of all union members.
The large turnout reflects this community support, especially among parents and students.
It provides a very good foundation to expand organising work in the schools and local communities. The prospects look good for building the campaign and forcing the government to back off on ‘performance pay' and to finally concede a decent pay rise for teachers. Premier Baillieu's future is less certain.
Defend public education
Defence of the public education system is not only important for its own right. It is also an important aspect of the ongoing efforts of working Australians to build a better and fairer future, and works in the direction of raising the capacity to exercise our national independence and self-determination. The work that teachers do in the schools, despite the imposed limitations, works towards empowering the people. Nothing could be more important.
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