Showing posts with label wages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wages. Show all posts

Monday, October 6, 2008

Being paid less than a dog walker

-> November 2008 update: click here

The government has just announced a 6% pay rise backdated to September 2. I congratulate the Liberal party for 'making good' on an election promise in the limited time frame stated. I await rather cynically to find out how long it takes to move through parliament and the DET paymaster.

Much fanfare was made by the media that this makes WA teachers the highest paid in Australia. Again we have clear misleading of the public through indirection rather than an investigation of the underlying issues and the reporting of a clear opinion based on a justifiable set of associated facts. Lazy journalism rather than investigative journalism relying on media releases rather than reasoned facts.

Why boast about teachers being the highest paid.. it's like waving a red rag at bull. My wife made the comment, "highest paid what? Dog walkers??" She earns considerably more than I do in an occupation where typically there is no educational requirement. There is clear inequity in teacher salaries and it needs redressing - not window dressing.

A forum entry on the Plato website lists wages in WA to be:
"The six per cent increase would see a first-year teacher’s annual salary grow
from $48,425 to $51,331, a senior teacher’s salary from $70,868 to $75,120,
a principal of a small school (under 100 students) from $77,744 to $82,409
and a principal of a large school (more than 700 students) from $114,593 to

After the increase a teacher salary is about $24.70 an hour for a 4 year degree trained graduate or $36.12 an hour for a senior teacher (salary ÷ 52 weeks ÷ 5 days ÷ 8 hours). My last car service (on a Camry) was $427. I don't even want to think what that apprentice doing my oil change was earning. In the gap between uni and teaching I was earning $30 per hour shifting boxes from one site to another.

ABS stated on the first of April 2008, the average wage in WA in 2007 was $1185.80 pw or $61,000 per year (this includes an adjustment for gender). If we are trying to attract people from industry into teaching, they will (in an average case) take at least a $10,000 pay cut on entry to the profession.

In international terms teacher wages would be 31, 216 USD (21,109 Eur) for a graduate and 52,792 USD (38,825 Eur) for a senior teacher with at least 7 years experience that can get their accreditation granted and credited in WA. "Move to Australia, have sub-habitable conditions in inhospitable regions and take pay just above the cost of living. It's a great adventure, you should do it now!!" Strangely this campaign failed to attract the number of teachers required in the short to medium term.

We expect teachers to take full responsibility for classrooms in their first year out and this responsibility does not change significantly throughout their career. For this they are paid $10,000 under the average wage. I can't imagine the financial strain some are feeling starting a family and getting a mortgage on a teaching salary especially when you consider repaying HECS fees, recovery from the loss of income during study and the distance/support issues with potential country postings. Each year we see TEE scores for teaching drop and pre-requisites fall by the wayside for specialist and core subjects (who remembers the 3 month bridging course idea that thankfully was dropped!).

I have also seen two friends and great teachers in the last two years quit teaching for financial reasons. In no industry are you expected to get a four year university degree, on starting work be directly responsible for the management of 30 (potentially aggressive) people at once (and 150 over the year), be expected to drive the formation of the social fabric of a community, take leave when suitable to your employer, potentially move away from home for years at a time to inhospitable regions and be paid well below the average wage. Teaching has been made an undesirable occupation for too many.

If you have survived financially after working in your subject area for 7 years, becoming a specialist in your field, you may get a premium of $10,000 over the average wage. If you are any good you may be encouraged to take an administrative role and be promoted in many cases to incompetence. Or you could spend two years going to courses learning how to submit an application for level 3 promoting yourself. Whoopee! It is just as well those remaining in the profession are as dedicated to the students and social good as you would think, otherwise you would suspect that they are of sub-par intelligence for putting up with all this.

We need to forward plan for the shortfalls in teaching staff projected for 2009/2010 and arrest the increase in resignations (graphs taken from PlatoWA website). Teachers have low morale at present and need a positive outlook in order to work effectively. Any real benefit must be sold to both teachers and the community through the media to make both appreciate the needs and benefits of change.

It is quite clear that to regain the position of teachers as professionals in the community and rectify morale issues, there needs to be a 10K increase now and another 10K in 3 years time with CPI increases in the interim. The issue is that it will cost an extra $523 million dollars p.a. It is money that must be spent to preserve the state school system. A monitoring system could then be instigated to ensure that the wage position of teachers in society does not change (with periodic reviews against top 10 occupations - similar to the politician wage fixing system). This is a minimum negotiating position for the restoration of the status of teaching as an occupation in society and could be sold to teachers.

Society values the dollar more than any factor when setting status and only when it is fought for. I fear the only effective method available for teachers to fight with at present is for strikes during TEE to create an understanding for the need for change stemming from the community. If society believes that state education is a requirement but does not believe teachers do a required job, then it should be reminded - if teachers stop working when it will hurt most - society may realise the critical role they play and the lack of alternative courses for students that are effective.

Teachers being caring and nurturing want to avoid this situation at all costs, even to their own detriment; because of this they are constantly taken advantage of. To avoid the strike action (that no-one wants - but clearly is in the best interests of teachers and society) there needs to be a media campaign with discussion of the worth of teachers; establish fair monetary value of their sacrifice in becoming teachers and value their contribution in the community over and above contributions of other occupations - teachers ARE an exception (this is what lifting the status of a profession entails). This would restore morale in the teaching sector, improve recruitment and justify/allow/promote some levels of rationalisation in the short term to correct perceived deficiencies in classroom teaching and school performance. This is something political parties, the business community and the media has to support.

Make the change and attract real teachers. Reward those within the system that have striven to keep standards high. Create a situation where sub par applicants can be redirected to other occupations within or outside education.

From dire times have always come great leaders. Let's hope that leader is going to stand up soon.