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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 366..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

When we came to power in 2001, the teachers were suffering under the very small pay increases and, essentially, wage freezes by the previous Liberal government. We had to do something to address the wage inequity that existed and ensure that teachers were paid within a realistic framework.

During the last negotiations, the ACT government offered responsible and realistic pay increases which ensured our teachers were the best paid in the country. For example, ACT graduate classroom teachers are now amongst the highest paid professionals in the country. Their current commencing salaries of $46,565 rank them on a par with the medical profession and ahead of graduates in law, engineering, accounting and architecture. When they leave university and get their first job, they are earning $46,000.

The pay increases over the past three years have seen teachers salaries increase by between 15 and 25 per cent. However, in budgeting for the new pay deal, we were anxious to do two things. One was to maintain teachers' position as one of the best paid in the country but to offer a pay increase that we could afford. That offer is now on the table. It is, essentially, an increase of three per cent per annum, which will keep them at that No 1 position.

This offer encompasses the same pay and conditions that teachers currently enjoy but offers them a pay rise above CPI and forecast CPI. Over the past three years, national CPI has been steady at 2.5 per cent. On top of the three per cent per annum, classroom teachers automatically move up the increment scale each year.

On top of the annual pay rise above CPI, teachers will receive a salary increase by virtue of progressing to a higher pay level automatically. For example, in 2003 a teacher who started at the graduate entry level entered the teaching work force on a salary of $41,000. Since that time, successive wage increases, coupled with automatic progression, mean that that teacher would now earn $51,222. By 2008, under the current three per cent on the table from the ACT government, this teacher will enjoy an annual salary of around $64,000, well above their counterpart in New South Wales on salary alone and well above when the total remuneration package, with increased super and less face-to-face teaching hours, are considered.

I was disappointed at the negative response from the education union in rejecting the government's offer. I am also disappointed that the union has decided to take industrial action so quickly. The union and the government have worked well together during our time in office. Certainly in a spirit of compromise, we have achieved much in our partnership.

I do not think the union is being honest when they criticise the government's offer. There is no doubt that teachers, if they accept this pay increase, would maintain their No 1 position in the country. There is no doubt about that. It is unfortunate that they have decided to take industrial action. We will be trying to avoid that industrial action on 14 March, if we can reach a resolution with the teachers before then.

I have to say that the government does not have any more money to give. If there is any movement, it will certainly have to be movement from the teachers' side on the content

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