Only 3 schools at full strength

ONLY three of the North East’s 37 government schools will run all classes today as teachers hold their third statewide strike for the first time in 15 years.

Sixteen of the region’s state schools will not hold any classes, 18 limited classes and three will run as usual — Falls Creek, Dederang and Glenrowan primary schools.

Dederang principal Bronwen Martin said the school had a tradition of not striking.

But she believed the main reason the school was staffed today was because it had had a first-aid course booked since last year.

“We’re a farming community and it helps our community if we are open,” Ms Martin said.

“But if there is another one I wouldn’t be surprised if our staff strike.

“Some of the staff have reached the point that if we hadn’t had the first aid booked, they would have joined the strike.

“That just shows the urgency for the government to do something.”

Catholic teachers will join the call for better pay and conditions — their wages are linked to that of their government counterparts.

Five North East Catholic schools will run limited classes while the other 13 will hold normal classes.

Unlike government teachers, Catholic teachers will not be protected if they strike today.

More than 60 Catholic teachers, members of the Independent Education Union, from Wodonga schools are expected to rally at High Street’s Cafe Grove this morning.

The independent union last week encouraged its members to strike, but yesterday confirmed it was no longer pushing action by Catholic staff.

“Last week we were legally allowed to do so, now we are not, that’s changed in the last few days,” a union spokesman said in Melbourne.

“People taking part in the protests will be taking unprotected action.

“Having said that, thousands of members have made their minds up to protest and have their voices heard.”

He said the union did not expect ramifications for Catholic teachers who joined the strike.

More than 30,000 teachers, principals and support staff are expected to stop work, North East government teachers will board buses this morning to join a protest at Melbourne’s Hisense arena.

Australian Education Union North East branch president Kim O’Shea believed members would “ramp up” action if today’s rally did not further negotiations.

“We might have to up the ante,” she said.

“I’m not sure what that will be, a decision has got to be made at a regional and state level.”

Her comments were backed by the regional office, with a representative saying the union would release the next step for action this morning.

Government teachers already refuse to work more than 38 hours a week, which threatens camps, excursions and parent-teacher interviews.

The union is after a revised pay claim of 12.6 per cent over three years but the government remains firm on 7.5 per cent and performance pay.