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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 461..


MRS DUNNE (continuing):

week, as you have just foreshadowed. Given the parlous state of the budget and the fact that you have just signed up to a Mexican standoff with the teachers, how do you propose to resolve the dispute without industrial action and serious disruption to the families of people who use government schools?

MS GALLAGHER: If Mrs Dunne listened to the answer I just gave, she would find that that addresses most of the areas of her question. The government cannot cave in on this. We cannot cave in and just say to the teachers, "Well, because you can shut down schools, because you can cause inconvenience to families in the territory, we will give you what you want."That is not something the government can do.

We have put a generous offer on the table, on top of an extremely generous resolution to the previous EBA, and we will not be budging from it. I do not know whether they do not believe that we will not budge-what their reasoning is-or whether they are accepting the creative language that the AEU is using about putting a different spin on the offer. Maybe it is about getting to teachers. We keep providing information to teachers. The department will be providing information to teachers around the offer and what it means. I have put an additional offer on the table in an attempt to persuade the AEU not to conduct industrial action next week.

We have gone from negotiations at the department level, meetings with the AEU, putting an offer on the table, to one week later shutting down the school system. We have gone from no industrial action to complete shutdown of the government system. Whilst that is the action that the AEU will take, why would the government meet with them to resolve it? Why would we meet if they have made it clear that, next Tuesday, from nine to one, regardless of what effort this government makes to seek a resolution to this matter, they will be shutting the schools down? Whilst the government is being threatened with industrial action, there is no point in meeting with them.

I speak to Mr Haggar from the AEU quite regularly. I have spoken to him numerous times and recently about the EBA. I met with him before I went on maternity leave. Within the last month the Chief Minister has met with him to talk to him. They have met with Sharan Burrow from the ACTU. There must have been some belief by the AEU that bringing Sharan Burrow from the ACTU would add weight to its claim.

All along we have been clear with the AEU on what the government's position is, what the offer will be. They knew what the wage offer would be in November-December last year, when I made it clear to them that it would be a three per cent offer. I wanted to put the offer to teachers then to avoid industrial disputation. We could have worked this through over the school holidays. But that was not convenient to the AEU. They did not want an offer being made then.

We have made several attempts to avoid a protracted industrial dispute. In fact, in every concession or every offer that has been put, at every meeting, it has been the government initiating it in an attempt to avoid the industrial action. But, at the end of the day, the AEU has made it clear that they will be taking industrial action next Tuesday, with further industrial action being threatened over the next month. At the end of the day, it will be the students and parents that are disrupted, and the teachers, who will not get the pay rise they deserve for a lot longer whilst this dispute carries on.


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