Teachers' work and award restructuring: An overview

Year: 1994

Author: Seddon, Terri

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Between the late 1980's and the early 1990's teacher unions and employers negotiated the introduction of new career classification for teachers, the Advanced Skills Teachers' Classification, and a new benchmarked salary level. These two developments were the centrepiece of what became known as teacher award restructuring. By the early 1990's teacher award restructuring was being overtaken by budget cuts and a range of other educational reform agendas, including the reform of teachers' work and the decentralisation of school management. Teacher award restructuring as such disappeared from public view.

Despite the shortlived character of teacher award restructuring, I will argue in this paper that it marks a significant moment in contemporary education reform. First, teacher award restructuring was an historic union campaign because it marked the first time that State and independent school teachers' unions worked together for a national award for teachers. Second, it was significant because it articulated with the broader industrial relations development of a new, productivity, basis for the negotiation of wages and working conditions. This new basis for industrial negotiation enabled teachers to catch up, to some extent, in terms of pay relativities and established a controversial additional career step, but it was also a slippery slope, opening the door to further educational change. Third, these broader industrial relations issues articulate with contemporary restructuring and debates about the appropriate character of public policy in a post-protection Australia.

Teacher award restructuring provides a linchpin between these public policy debates and debates about educational reform. It is significant, therefore, because it permits educators to frame questions about an appropriate, practical, articulation of education with other social institutions (e.g., the economy, polity, welfare) in the 21st century.