DRASTIC ACTION: Department of Education staff downed tools yesterday in their dispute with the State Government over a pay increase.
DRASTIC ACTION: Department of Education staff downed tools yesterday in their dispute with the State Government over a pay increase. Allan Reinikka ROK121118astrike1

School support staff come Together for pay rise

SUPPORT staff in the education sector banded together yesterday for their first industrial strike in 10 years, urging the Queensland government to bargain "in good faith” for a pay increase.

Together Queensland Industrial Union of Employees' organiser, Ashleigh Saunders, has been involved in unions for the past six years and said it is time for the government to take these public servants seriously.

Yesterday, around 3000 support staff, therapists, science operations officers, administration officers, school officers and groundsmen went on strike for four hours.

"We've been attempting to bargain with the government in good faith since the middle of the year but we haven't been receiving the same in return from the state government,” Ms Saunders said.

"We're trying to get a pay rise, just like every other public servant.

"These members are trying to get something more than zero per cent.

"But we've had no offer from the government [yesterday] for the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) and we're currently in conciliation.”

The industrial action notice allowed Together members to strike on Monday after failed attempts to bargain with Minister for Education Grace Grace last week.

"These people are therapists for our schools, they help children with learning difficulties and disabilities, they maintain the grounds,” Ms Saunders said.

"We have administration officers that work in schools who - of their own volition - bring in food for lunch because there's so many students that come to school without food.

"They're integral parts of our community and to be disrespected by our government with no offer is just shameful.

"Local schools have been very supportive of our members because they know the support staff members are integral to our community.”

Ms Saunders said the award wage increase for school's support staff on September 1 this year was said to be "a pay rise” and they would receive no further increase.

"The award wages are underneath their EBA wages - the award is the bare minimum they have to be paid and then we bargain and have a price bargaining agreement that sits on top.

"Because the award got increased, they're saying 'no more'.

"That's not bargaining in good faith. That's not their EBA.

"In no other industry are the award wages higher than the EBA wage. Some people here today are on $57,000 a year.”

Ms Saunders said the staff were "always the ones forgotten” and that they do the same job as those in other industries such as health for "thousands and thousands” less per year.

"They have the same degree, the same qualifications and same skills but for some reason they aren't valued because they're in education,” she said.

"With the price of absolutely everything going up, these workers had wages essentially frozen to a point where their award rate is higher their EBA wage and they need it, it's good for our economy.

Ms Grace responded to Together's initial approach on November 1 in a letter on Thursday.

"I am advised there have been almost 20 discussion forums and numerous telephone and email exchanges that have sought to clarify views of both parties in relation to the negotiations,” she said.

"I am also advised that the department verbally outlined the Government's position and offer within the approved bargaining framework, along with clarifying the status of Together's claims on 24 October 2018.

"I also understand that at the bargaining meeting held on 29 August 2018, an offer in relation to non-cost items was tabled by departmental representatives.

"These actions demonstrate the department's active and ongoing engagement in good-faith bargaining.”

Ms Grace said negotiations currently on foot included a number of claims made by Together than fell outside the State Wages Policy.

"I assure you that as soon as negotiations are concluded the department will issue a formal offer,” she said.

"I can assure you that the government and communities right across our state greatly value the work that our hard-working public servants do in supporting Queensland education.

"Further conciliation conferences have been scheduled throughout November and December and departmental representatives will continue to engage with your officers both formally and informally during this time with a view to resolving the outstanding matters.

"The government has already delivered wage increases, outside of bargaining, by supporting a 3.5% wage increase in the 2018 State Wage Case, which has flowed on to state awards.”