Unions threaten strike on first day of school in WA despite Government backflip over funding cuts
Education support and service staff are still threatening to strike on the first day of the WA school year, warning the McGowan Government’s backflip on education cuts yesterday has not gone far enough.
Community and Public Sector Union WA branch secretary Toni Walkington said the reversal of a decision to close the Schools of the Air and Northam Residential College was welcome, but there were still major cuts proposed which made no sense.
“There is no difference between the cuts they have reversed and the cuts they continue to make,” Ms Walkington said.
“A further 3000 jobs are set to go over the next month or two and you will not see those jobs go without a massive impact on the community.
“We are pleased that the Government has reversed some of the cuts, however it’s disappointing they haven’t reversed all of them including the need for specialist Aboriginal education staff and the need for truancy support staff.”
Ms Walkington said education staff represented by the CPSU were already under so much pressure that any further stretching of resources in the sector was untenable.
The union will meet on Tuesday to decide what course of industrial action to take in light of the concessions made by the Government.
Ms Walkington said there were a number of options.
“Striking on the first day back is not off the table, we’ll be talking with members and the Government before making a call on that,” she said
“We’ll be talking with our members about making sure they adopt safe, healthy work practices, which means they won’t be doing extra hours or volunteer work.
“They may have to engage in other industrial action such as having close-down afternoons or mornings where they’re not answering enquiries from the public or parents, so they can get on with doing the work that needs to be done to support the classroom.”
The State Schools Teachers’ Union of WA (SSTUWA) welcomed the reversal of a ban on hiring level three teachers and reinstatement of funding for gifted and talented programs, but said there was room for more reversals.
“There is a need for budget repair, what we say is that it shouldn’t come from vital public services, and education is a classic example,” SSTUWA President Pat Byrne said.
The axing of scholarship funding for the best performing students in each public school was among items to be cut from the education budget that Ms Byrne said needed to stay.
Plea for Moora College
Residents in the town of Moora are also among those less than satisfied with the Government’s backdown, with the Moora Residential College still earmarked for closure.
Shire President Ken Seymour said he was concerned the fight to keep the college open could fall by the wayside after the government’s concessions, but said it was a fight worth continuing.
“We really don’t think the Government has done their homework on this, they probably admitted that yesterday,” he said.
There are 29 students boarding at the college who would be forced to find an alternative, which could impact the viability of the Central Midlands Senior High School operating for Year 11 and 12 students.
He said the College was also a cog in the economy that the town could not do without.
“The flow-on effects are immense, for instance the residential college is the butcher’s single biggest customer in town.”
The Deputy Leader of the WA National Party, Jacqui Boydell, also weighed into the Moora fight.
“I find the decision to have the Northam Residential College remain open but Moora close baffling,” she said.
“I also think the cuts to the boarding-away-from-home allowance continue to affect education opportunities for regional kids.
“The Government does not understand the need for those regional families to have that support.”
Premier Mark McGowan has defended the remaining education cuts, and has urged the union to accept that the Government had to make some tough decisions.
He also pointed out that Moora College was different from Northam, because it needed expensive maintenance.
“There’s a requirement for an enormous amount of infrastructure spend at Moora because of fire issues that have been brought to attention,” he said.
“Frankly we can’t afford that, so we’re going to close that one, but bear in mind there’s a whole range of other ones out there that parents and students can access.”
“There’s a range of agricultural residential colleges out there, there’s Narrogin, Merredin, Northam and we’re building a new high school in Yanchep which will pick up a lot of the slack.”