Banning voluntary labour: A study of teachers' work and collective action

Year: 1995

Author: Robertson, Susan, Chadbourne, Rod

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

During January 1995, the State School Teachers Union of Western Australia decided to take industrial action to secure adequate consultation processes with the Education Department, a pay rise for teachers in recognition of productivity increases already achieved, and more educational resources for schools. The central strategy of the campaign involved placing a ban on all voluntary work performed by Union members. So far the dispute has lasted seven months with no resolution in sight.

This qualitative research paper presents a formative review of the UnionAs campaign. Material for the review was collected from (a) interviews with Union officers, Education Department representatives, teachers and principals, and (b) information published in The West Australian, Western Teacher (Union journal), School Matters (Education Department magazine) and documents released by the Union and Department.

The type of questions addressed in the paper include the following: On what basis has the Union distinguished essential from voluntary work, and how have teachers, students, parents, the Department and media responded to that distinction? Why did the Union choose the strategy of banning voluntary work in preference to other forms of industrial action? What strategies has the Department adopted to combat the bans and how has the Union attempted to counter these strategies? What types of teachers and principals have experienced difficulty abiding by the bans and how have their difficulties been resolved? How effective have the bans been so far, has the Union had to modify its central strategy and if so how and why?The paper concludes by examining the answers to these questions in terms of strategic and theoretical issues surrounding the changing nature of teachersA work, teachersA collective action, and the teacherAs role as political actor.