English Language Centre Teacher, Hume Central Secondary College
Years ago I realised the importance of having unions to represent workers because it’s the only way to achieve workplace democracy and ensure that you can have a say in what goes on at work. And the beauty of the union model is that it’s democracy in action, the workers vote for their representatives who advocate for them.
A lot of people think unions are always out for a fight, but that’s not the case. Teachers in unions want to work constructively with our educational leaders to achieve the conditions that will lead to the best student outcomes. We’re in the job because we love it – and we’re in the union because we see it as a way to make sure everybody has a say at work – that the ideas and experience of all teachers can be channelled upwards to leadership.
I joined the union because problems at work can be hard to solve as an individual – we’re much stronger in a collective. Through the AEU we can articulate to the government what we believe is best for students. A good example is the Gonski campaign that we’re running on a state and federal level; it’s only through the union that we’re able to do that.
Problems at work can be hard to solve as an individual – we’re much stronger in a collective.
Also, if you have an issue at work, if you’re anxious about your contract or not sure how long it’ll last, you can raise it through your union sub-branch. We can then get clarification on that issue with school leadership through the consultative committee, and ensure good practices and processes at school.
If you were a teacher on a one-year contract, you didn’t get paid for your entire summer holiday break. Thanks to the union, that’s changed.
The union also advocates for better contracts. It wasn’t that long ago that if you were a teacher on a one-year contract, you didn’t get paid for your entire summer holiday break. Thanks to the union, that’s changed. I tell all new teachers that!
And for women in particular, the union has achieved remarkable things like winning the rights to paid maternity leave and making sure that the Education Department has to protect women’s jobs when they have a family. These conditions don’t exist in a lot of other industries and wouldn’t have happened without the AEU.