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Question: Teachers' Industrial Action

28 September 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:07): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector on the topic of the teachers' industrial action.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On 1 September 2023, thousands of people gathered outside Parliament House, calling for better pay and more support for teachers in classrooms across public schools. On the day, more than 300 schools were closed or operating a reduced program. I should say that it was an honour to speak at the rally and show solidarity on behalf of the Greens.

On 17 September 2023, the South Australian branch of the Australian Education Union stated that a new offer had been given to the union by the Malinauskas government; however, the union still had concerns about the proposal, especially regarding non-instruction time for teachers. Therefore, my question to the minister is: what is the current status of negotiations with teachers, and what action is the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector taking to meet the needs of teachers and support staff in our state's public schools?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:08): I thank the honourable member for his question and his steadfast support of working people in South Australia over many years and over three levels of government now.

There are ongoing discussions between the government and the union that represents teachers in this state. They are respectful discussions, and at some stage we will find that middle common ground. These sorts of negotiations are sometimes protracted and are not always easy, but we are doing something very different to what the former government did. We are doing it in good faith and in a respectful manner.

We all remember the former government. The former minister for industrial relations, the Hon. Rob Lucas, would chastise and attempt to demean people as union bosses. I have to say, there is no more honourable thing, in my view, than being a union boss, dedicating your working life to helping working people—often helping some of the lowest paid people in society.

We respect unions, and certainly it is a new experience for me, finding myself on the other side of negotiating with public sector unions, but we have already done it with the nurses' union, with the firefighters' union and with the ambulance union, successfully by being respectful. The ambulance union, for example: our hardworking paramedics had not had a pay rise for years—I think it was over three years that they hadn't had a pay rise because of the belligerence of the previous government, because of the stubbornness, because of the ideological hatred that the Hon. Rob Lucas had for people representing workers in this state.

We have concluded negotiations and agreements with those three unions already. There are negotiations with the teachers' union currently going on and I have been happy to be a part of some of those negotiations. There are further negotiations occurring at a departmental level and I am sure we will come to a resolution in the not-too-distant future. I want to pay tribute to the people they represent as well: the teachers in this state, who educate the next generation of South Australians and do extraordinary workday in, day out.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:10): Supplementary: given the extraordinary work done by our teachers, will the government commit to actually paying them what they are worth?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:10): I thank the honourable member for his question. As I have said, those negotiations will continue, and I am sure will land in the not-too-distant future.