Pay row risks schools strike
United Voice members show solidarity during their meeting. Picture: Steve Ferrier, The West Australian

About 10,000 WA school cleaners, gardeners and education assistants are threatening to start industrial action within weeks over what they say is the slow pace of pay talks with the State Government.

About 2000 United Voice union members agreed yesterday to implement so-called work bans once students returned from school holidays next month.

Assistant secretary Carolyn Smith said the Government's pay rise offer of 3.5 per cent for the first year and 3.25 per cent for the subsequent two years was not enough to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The union is pushing for an extra $80 a week.

“We’re in a boom state, we can afford to pay a little more,” Ms Smith said. “Our members are some of the lowest paid workers in the public system. They’re just finding they can’t make ends meet.

“I think the ball is now firmly in the Government’s court: if they don’t want schools to be affected they need to sit down and talk seriously to our members about a serious pay rise.”

Terry Sumner, an education assistant at a Perth primary school, said the sector’s workers were “starting to hurt” as the costs of living rose.

“We deserve better,” she said. “Schools can’t run without us.”

Gardener Christopher Tait said he wanted a pay rise so he could get himself and his two children out of State housing.

“We need this pay rise,” he said.

Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said the Government valued the contribution of education assistants and other employees but did not believe industrial action would be helpful.

“Negotiations have been progressing in a cooperative manner and we do not believe threats of industrial action at this early stage will assist the parties reaching agreement,” he said.

“Government wages policy aims to deliver fair, balanced and economically sustainable outcomes for the Government and its employees. The Government recommends the union withdraw its threat of industrial action at this early stage of negotiations.”

The West Australian

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