Despite the health advice consistently provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee which says that teachers can and should go back to school, teachers’ unions across the country are continuing to dig their heels in and are doing their level best to make sure that this doesn’t happen.
The message to the teachers from the Federal Government could not be clearer: it is safe to go back to doing your job with appropriate measures in place.
The recommendation from the National Cabinet is that “on current evidence, schools can be fully open” and that “attendance at a school campus for education represents a very low health risk to students”.
The advice also notes that “appropriate practices must be employed at schools, like at other workplaces, to provide a safe working environment for school staff, including teachers”.
However, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said that “we’re concerned that our governments are keeping schools closed not from a health recommendation but almost because of parental fear and some reaction in local governments.”
It is no coincidence that the politicians who are most opposed to reopening schools are in those states which have the most militant teachers’ unions. Daniel Andrews and his cabinet seem to be in the pockets of the Victorian teachers’ unions.
This week, the Victorian Education Minister James Merlino even went so far to say that a Melbourne principal’s decision to bring back half of the school students next week is “reckless”.
The Education Minister’s portfolio is to ensure that Victorian children receive the best education possible. He should be working to re-open schools as quickly and as safely as possible. Instead, he is doing his best to ensure that they stay shut.
In NSW, the union is not even prepared to consider implementing Gladys Berejiklian’s plan for students to go back from May 11 in a staggered rate so that the schools are ready for full- time schooling to start in July.
In South Australia, the chief public health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier wrote a twitter message to parents saying that schools were safe to re-open, which the AEU decided to emblazon with the words ‘Seriously, Spurrier?’
In Queensland, the union is also defying medical consensus by treating to not only close schools if too many children turn up or they run out of cleaning products, but it is also telling no doubt stressed parents that they will have to homeschool until the end of June.
Like everyone else, teachers would have been to the shops, done the groceries, gone for walks, shopped at Bunnings and lined up at Dan Murphy’s. However, according to the unions, going to school presents a higher risk.
In WWII, the unions refused to unload cargo.
The wharfies deliberately sabotaged the war effort by destroying vehicles and equipment, stealing food being loaded for soldiers, holding snap strikes and demanding ‘danger money’ for loading biscuits.
Now the unions are depriving children of an education, and at the same time refusing to give much needed relief to millions of parents who are facing an everyday struggle to work from home and educate their children at the same time. Perhaps a solution would be to pay those parents the teachers’ salaries while the schools remain closed.
Teachers are not being asked to go to the front line of contagion.
During the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919, school teachers were seen to be the best source of essential workers, and were asked to volunteer to become the nucleus of an organisation to establish District Emergency Relief Depots which were designed to assist people disadvantaged by the pandemic.
This meant that teachers went directly to the houses of the very sick and the unemployed.
Most teachers who are sitting at home want to get back to work and to see their students again. They relish the face-to-face interaction with their pupils — after all, teaching is a vocation. Most of them see online teaching as wasteful, inadequate and boring. The unions speak with the voice of the minority.
Teachers’ unions are unique because they mostly involve government jobs. Rather than negotiating with an employer for higher shares of the profits, they instead negotiate for more of our tax dollars.
In a free market, teacher performance and compensation go hand-in-hand, but teachers’ unions rely on coercion to increase pay, and they seek to restrict competition through political means.
This may help the teachers’ unions, but it is harmful towards children and their parents who pay taxes.
The unions are responsible for many problems in our education system.
Unions do not like competition, so they require teachers to get a university degree because that way they can control what the teachers are being taught.
They demotivate teachers and punish ambition because they are against performance-based pay. It’s almost impossible to sack a bad teacher, and for good teachers ambition and excellence are punished.
They undermine other forms of education, other than online learning, such as homeschooling.
Is it any wonder why Australian schoolchildren are behind in literacy and numeracy?
Teachers’ unions say they care about children. But their actions during the last month or so has sent a loud and clear message, which is that their primary concern is about themselves.