LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Win-win for Federation

As a long-term Federation activist and former Country Organiser I have to say how pleased I was to see an article on the front page of Education that addressed the core issue of a union such as ours – industrial advocacy on behalf of our members.

I refer, of course, to the article titled “Thousands of permanent jobs secured”, which referred to the 6 October 2017 Industrial Relations Commission endorsement of a settlement that will see 2630 more teachers gain permanency in NSW public schools.

It is my concerned observation that in recent times far too many teachers have been kept in temporary and casual positions in schools, presumably at the behest of the principals, than should have been the case, to which the Commission’s decision now attests.

Permanency was a basic right for which previous generations of teachers have battled and should not be foregone for any pretense at modernity, or a school’s (i.e. principal’s) right to choose.

From my experience, staff are often kept as temporaries to enhance the authority and control of some principals who cannot gain respect in other ways.

Similarly with the article on page 3 titled “Hard-fought agreement brings salary relief”. Why are we having to seek an agreement, in 2017, of “the right for members to be paid a salary commensurate with their service”?

These rights were fought for and achieved some time ago. It would appear to many Federation members that a little more overt industrial advocacy and threat of industrial action may achieve a greater reality in the ranks of the Department of Education’s staffing section, rather than the long drawn-out “painstaking negotiations” the Department’s industrial section enjoy and thrive on while Federation members do not receive their legitimate entitlement.

Consequently I would applaud what would appear to be a new focus of Federation. For, while the Gonski funding campaign was a fundamental focus over the past eight years, and community social issues are important, the focus on industrial matters such as these two cases should never take second place for a union with a reputation of worker activism.

Owen Hasler
Life Member

Wages Streets ahead

In the advent of the Streets workers’ plight for wages and conditions, a young employee of the company on ABC’s 7.30 quoted his base wage at $96,000. Perhaps it’s time we took to the streets for salary justice.

Matthew Somerton
Manly Campus

"Absolute" or "Relative"

"The latest PISA results....showed that Australian 15 year-olds are declining in absolute terms AND (my emphasis) relative to their international peers." ("Public-private debate drives drop-off in school results", Sydney Morning Herald December 5)

If they are declining "in absolute terms" we need to be quite concerned.

If they are declining "relative to their international peers" we need to know about the actual performance of those "international peers".

Performance of "international peers" may have increased in "absolute terms" due to proper "international" government investments in quality education for their students.

We need to investigate the world-wide PISA results and explain which parts of the "decline" are "absolute" and which parts are "relative".

Public-private school drift, publicly subsidised private and Catholic schools influx of new immigrants, parent choice, school competition, teacher improvement, school accountability, policy differences, decreasing number maths-trained and less time spent teaching maths may be relevant once we know the actual details regarding any decline.

However, my 40 years in Public Education has led me to assert that "adequate funding for low income schools" is a major factor.

Many Australians believe that our governments do not invest properly or wisely in the education of Australia's most valuable raw material, our children.

Notwithstanding the actual reasons for any decline in PISA results the issue of proper investment in education is vital to the future of all of us.

Barry Sexton
Life Member