Suzanne Donnelly has her eagle eyes on the fabulous super payments made to state and federal politicians: to help governments pay properly for education let’s cut pollies down to the same “super” size as the rest of us and find a better use for the extra money, she says.
“If I were prime minister I would ensure that the full Gonski funding was in the Budget for years five and six and change the legislation regarding retired politicians so that taxpayers don’t have to keep paying them salaries and especially super that are unrealistic compared to other pensions,” she said. “The money saved would be put into hospitals, education (schools, TAFE and university) and roads.”
Over the past seven years, federal politicians’ base pay has shot up 49 per cent, from $131,040 to $195,130, and their defined benefits super scheme is mind-boggling. In NSW, state MPs’ super costs $25 million a year. Suzanne thinks of what public schools can do with some of those millions.
Ensuring complete commitment to needs-based Gonski schools funding and safeguarding teachers’ staffing rights and entitlements are important drivers of Suzanne’s work. “There should no trade-off of our working conditions and entitlements for an increase in salary. We are professionals and should be treated as such,” she said.
Suzanne has been Fed Rep at Mudgee Public for two years and while she currently doesn’t receive release time for her union duties says it will be “on the agenda for next year”.
“It is a very important role as you are able to help all staff in one way or another, such as ensuring they have the right level of cover, finding out information on different matters and being a spokesperson for Federation causes,” she said.
“I often spend time after school doing Fed Rep duties such as looking for information on leave entitlements, changing or updating staff information on the Fed Rep website and so on.”
Suzanne is pleased that her efforts to encourage others to join up and become involved in Federation concerns and attend Association meetings are showing success, saying members need to keep on top of efforts being made in their own interests.
There’s a Federation Committee at Mudgee Public to lighten the load for the Fed Rep. “It’s wonderful to have other teachers to discuss matters and work out how to approach some matters such as contacting MPs over the importance of Gonski funding,” she said.
Suzanne said most staff at the school have “made the switch” to direct payment of union fees “and I have started talking about the benefits of direct debit to those who don’t use it”.
The union needs to be supported because it supports members at all times, Suzanne said. “It has achieved many improvements for teachers’ leave provisions and working conditions such as the introduction of release from face-to-face teaching, reduced class sizes K-2, which has benefited many teachers, myself included.”
The Mudgee Public Fed Rep winds down with family time, reading — John Grisham, James Patterson and Bryce Courtenay are faves — cross-stitch embroidery and solving puzzles such as sudoku or, to bring it all home, puzzles such as “ what can schools do with pollies’ perks?”.