Monday, December 04, 2006

Victoria's ratbag teacher union claims

The Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union today announced its demands on the recently-elected Bracks Government.

This is one of the rewards Victorians gain from having re-elected Labor a week ago. The AEU (of course) strongly endorsed Labor in the recent State election - although they now say the State Government 'exploits them'. With demands like the following it is not hard to see why they feel agrieved. They want:

  • A 30% pay increase over 3 years to all teachers.
  • An increase in superannuation from 9 to 12%.
  • Maximum class siuze to be set at 20 students.
  • Reduced use of contract labour in schools which is in excess of 17% in some schools.
And of course they express their total:

  • Opposition to merit or performance-based pay
on the delightful grounds that the current system allows 'quicker progression through the pay scales'. With this sought salary increase a Graduate teacher would start on $59,965 while a top-of-the-range Leading Teacher would earn $102,278.

Even by the standards of meat-head, trade unionists these are foolish, ambit claims.


conrad said...

Its weird that people think that teachers shouldn't be able to ask for as much as they think they can get -- many other professions can, and no-one complains. That includes ones that take from the public purse, such as doctors. Why are teachers so special in this case?

hc said...

I agree doctors are good at holding out their hands for publicly-funded incomes.

But a 30% claim that would take junior graduate teachers well-beyond starting salaries in virtually any field with salary increments determined by seniority not merit?

These salary increments would do permanent damage to education in Victoria.

conrad said...

I used to believe what a lot of people (possibly including you) believe -- that the biggest problem lies in the teacher's union, and therefore that they shouldn't make ridiculous claims.

However, now I think the biggest problem lies in many people being too cheap to pay for their children's education. As long as this holds, it means that the government is always going to have to pay 50% of teachers (or whatever the real number is), and we will be stalemated in the sort of situation that we have now.

Also, speaking of permanent damage, given that the average teacher quality is declining and there are shortages in many areas, it seems pretty clear that the pay of at least some types of teachers isn't enough. Thus in some case, 30% pay rises are probably worthwhile -- even though no-one is willing to pay it.

whyisitso said...

As you well know Harry, unions have always made ambit claims. It's a game they've played for many many decades. After everything is settled they'll announce that getting 15% of what they asked for represents a major victory for the 'light on the hill'.

jack said...

Gee Harry, you have sussed - it took you a little while - that to increase the response rate to your blog you have to, er, throw the switch to vaudeville.

Like with your post on the AWB Inquiry, and now on this, you are banging on the tree trunks, to flush out the pinko scum.

Are you angling for a column with a News Ltd paper? (They are full up at the moment.)

hc said...

Conrad, Not true for me - I've put 3 kids through the private school system. It will keep me broke for 20 years but at least my kids won't be exposed to this rabble.

Whyisitso, It is just such a totally ratbag claim even as an ambit claim. What is productivity growth in the sector - perhaps 2% p.a. The claims if met would cripple Victorian education - salary and class size demands.

More private sector teachers please and more private schools.

Jack, No pinkos here just crazty trade union demands that can cause damage.

jack said...

Oh please. What is crippling Victorian education is the fantastic subsidy the private schools are getting from the federal government. The sums are all the more mind-boggling when you consider that a lot of the extra subsidy is hidden because many of the schools are funded by associated charities and religious bodies. That's right, taxpayer-funded subsidy. And you use words like "crazy" and (economic) "damage" in reference to teachers' unions?

hc said...

Jack, What you are saying is false. The private schools heavily cross-subsidise the public good system. The government subsidy is far lower than would be obtained by students were students attending a public school.

Close the private schools and every school student would be disadvantaged.

conrad said...


I didn't say you were too cheap -- I said too large a portion of the population is, as you indeed note later. However, I wouldn't call it a cross subsidy -- it is just that the proportion the government pays for your children is less.

hc said...

Conrad, Yes but I pay above-average taxes as do most who send their kids to private school. Hence there is an element of cross-subsidy.

We get less back in public contributions and pay additional amounts ourselves for the education of our children.

David Jeffery said...

Harry, it's a bit sloppy (and perhaps disingenuous) to say that private schools "heavily cross-subsidise" public schools if you mean that taxpayers subsidise both and that private school parents happen to pay more tax on average.

It's easy to take pot shots at 30% pay rise claims but teacher pay has been falling relative to other occupations for decades and there is a fall in teacher quality associated with that.

Wouldn't you agree Harry that education exhibits public good elements that warrant public investment and that investment should include paying enough to attract quality teachers?

Bring Back CL's blog said...


You want teachers to be paid on merit but cannot define it.
Then you bring in productivity offsets which is different.
My guess their productivity is about the same as yours at University ie not able to be measured.

hc said...

David, Subsidies to private schools are much less than those to public schools so even with the same tax rates parents sending their kids to private schools cross subsidise the rest.

Of course I have nothing against paying teachers market-related loadings and paying what it requires to get enough teachers. That will happen anyway. Teachers don't seem to me to be badly paid in Victoria. I think the administrative loads being imposed on teachers (and university staff!) are driving people away from the profession.

David & Homer, Promotion and annual increments in the universities have been performance-based for years. Salaries don't just grow with seniority. Productivity is assessed by research publication and teaching evaluations.

conrad said...


pointing to the Australian university system as an example of somewhere where people are promoted based on their performance in a semi-government system isn't especially convincing (and the other "rewards" like the grant system is even worse).

I could use exactly the same argument to say how hard it is to create a decent system. Alternatively, if we were to accept that the system does really does reward merit well, then it would simply suggest that such a system doesn't stop long term problems such as attacting and keeping good (young) staff from occuring. Perhaps you don't have staffing problems in economics, but they are big head-ache in many fields.

jack said...

No, it is your argument that is false. It may have been true in the 1960s, when you went to (a state) school. Then there was no state aid going to non-government schools. Therefore, when children were educated in the private system the government saved money by not having to pay for their education in the public school system and yet the parents of those students still paid their taxes like everyone else.

But then, seeing a political opportunity, the Catholic system threatened to close schools in marginal electorates and in so doing massively overburdening the state system with extra enrolments. The Victorian and NSW governments buckled and kicked in for libraries and science labs (the start of the slippery slope).

Since those times there has been an absolutely massive increase in government subsidies at all levels to non-government schools, accelerating to warp speed under Johnny Howard and Count Yorga (David Kemp). I could quote figures but I do not want to bore you all.

Suffice to say that government funding for non-government schools now exceeds the government funding for government schools!

I would direct you and others to the so-called Socio-Economic Status funding formula (SES) – this formula works out funding based on where the student lives. Thus if you are a well-off individual who happens to be living in an area adjudged by some bureaucrat to be - by postcode - a downmarket area, then the private school there wants your children, like major, because they get a huge whack out of you and the government at the same time. Some schools make as much as 90% of their operating costs this way. Tasty.

But wait, there’s more. The taxpayer gravy train really gains momentum here. There are: grants for capital funding (check out the marginal electorate figures, ho, ho, ho); library funding, computer funds under various hidden schemes, interest rate rorts for capital works and school funds (check out the fine print on your tax returns folks).

Then there is the charity element, which I mentioned earlier, and which you so studiously ignored in your haste to shout “false” at me, H. An overwhelming majority of non-government schools are on some form of god-bothering caper run on “charity” lines and therefore get a free ride on the tax front. They do not pay payroll tax, for example, yet still charge hefty fees, as you well know, H,, while being an employer. So they can pay more to teachers as they save on payroll tax. What a good idea.

There’s myriad of other rorts involved in being a charity and/or a religious organisation.

I am wondering whether, by contributing to a “registered school fund” or a “building fund” or a “library fund” as a fees offset arrangement with their child’s private school, a person on a high salary would then take advantage to minimise their level of personal tax. Now that's a cross-subsidy for you. Hmmmm?

FXH said...

harry - some how I just lost a rant from me. Possibly a blessing.

Short Powerpoint version: I been on two primary school councils - one up country. President for 3 years of a Eastern burbs High School. Good, bad, ugly and brilliant amongst teachers and students.(and parents)

We had to take in those booted out for drugs, violence, brain damage, low IQ or lack of effort, or mostly for parents not paying the bills, of the wagon camp of private schools that ringed us - tighter and tighter.

At end of year 8 the private schools descended like jackals on us and offered our best and brightest scholarships.

We accepted and supported those with handicaps and disabilities, those with borderline intellectual disability, those whose parents hadn't gone beyond primary school and as well those who had spirit, brains, nous and heart.

We watched the private schools hold back year 11 students from exams after 10 months so as not to incur a penalty, when repeating again year 11 next year.

We had some of our teachers poached, some were good, surprisingly many we were pleased to see go, but most were good average.

I can say more - but harry - I ask you not to denigrate the parents teachers and students who for various reasons choose to work hard, ethically and conscientiously in the state system and despite all the real barriers and prejudice against them do well and contribute to our nation as well as and often better then those who attend the schools of privilege.

Ali baba said...

Harrys Harrys, Harrys. So it is to me up again and tell you simple things most of us have knowing of and find easy on the brain!!

Vic Govt = Big and One boss

Teachers = Lots of small peoples

Union means matching of powers to keep wage above exploit level!

Really, Harrys, please use noggin. What are you a professor of again? Socialology?

hc said...

FXH, I should not have made unwise remarks about teachers in the State system and I withdraw them. This post was directed at their union. Some of the best and finest work in the State schools - a difficulty is lack of resources not poor teaching and I know the administrative workloads on top of the teaching are huge.

But my own effort to opt out of the system has saved taxpayer dollars while keeping me poor for nearly 20 years.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

with due respect you have merely emphasised my point.

You cannot measure performance so you take the proxies of research publication and teaching evaluations.
Tell us how productivity is related here Harry.

You write more publications and your costs fall?

hc said...


What's the story on CL?

Productivity measures outputs divided by inputs and, in a uni the outputs are teaching, research, administration and community service. Inputs are staff time.

You can question the output proxies - that's another story - but this measure is iused for promotion and increments.

Anonymous said...

21 comments, that's a record.

"ratbag teachers"

good choice!

I suggest:

"Melbourne nurses: under worked and over dressed"

The number of comments will hit the roof.

hc said...

Anon, Ratbag teachers union not rattbag teachers. See also my response to FXH.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

Cl has gone into a hiatus and I want to wake him up.

The blogosphere is not the best at the moment.

I actually said in the first place they were proxies and productivity reduces costs, in your case they do bugger all to costs.

In other words you are measuring for measuring sake not for the original reason.

Just say it cannot be done

Anonymous said...

Why not pay teachers $250,000, or better yet $700,000? Good one, it's in, thanks!

absurd thought -
God of the Universe loves
BIG corrupt unions...

provide life-long employment
schools are not for children

steveKat said...

My friend who works on a pot line at alcoa works the same number of days per year as I do and he takes home more money than I gross as a six year teacher. Tell me why that is reasonable given the different responsibilities we have.
Steve M.

Huw Carr said...

Dear Sir,

I am interested by your opinion that the teacher's union is making 'crazy claims' for pay increases. I haven't read any other posts you have made but it seems to me that doctors are frequently making the same claims. Have you written a post on that issue?

I notice that you state that because you have put your children through private school that they will not be "exposed" to unions. I don't know what school they went to but, respectfully, you don't know much about teacher's unions if you think they are not active in the private sector.

My wife has been a teacher for 13 years. For 5 years now she has been on the contract system. Although she is constantly praised by parents for making a difference to the lives of the children in her care (she has further degrees in gifted education, music and I.T.) she is constantly being replaced by cheaper new graduates. Would the union be a 'crazy' 'unfair' organisation for demanding that (as her performance ranking is listed as 'exceptional') she be removed from a contract?

Do you understand why teachers in Victoria are striking? Where do you think their pay rate comes in comparison to the rest of the country? Second? Fifth? Would you be surprised to learn it comes last?

Crazy demands? Although you are entitled to your opinion, I respectfully suggest that you would put your argument forward better if you did more research and kept away from emotive language. But perhaps your underpaid, under-appreciated teachers didn’t have the chance to teach you that as you were already demanding they work for less! I wonder if you would voice this opinion to the teachers who were responsible for educating your children?

Yours sincerely,

Huw Carr

Anonymous said...

I noticed you think that progression based on performance for teachers is a good idea. Anyone who teaches knows this is a terrible idea. When people are paid based on performance, they are less likely to share their skills, knowledge and resources with others. It creates a competitive environment instead of a sharing one. I am a young teacher and I rely a lot on the knowledge and skills of more experienced teachers to improve in my proffession. If performanced based pay was brought in it would be a disaster for the education system. Also, this doesn't take the students into account. Is a teacher who works with children who have difficulties with literacy to be penalized because her students don't progress as quicky as a teacher that teaches gifted students at a grammar school?
Also, I studied for 4 years to become a teacher and my first 3 years were spent struggling to get work as all I could get were contracts which give no financial stabilty. I even considered leaving the proffession for this reason.
Maybe fi you were a teacher you would understand where we are coming from.