Yesterday I joined many other teachers across the Northern Territory in electing to strike and not go to work. This action was in protest to the significant staff cuts that are imminent for NT schools, as well as unsatisfactory progress in the current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) negotiations.
It is important that we (those going out on strike) don't descend into infighting or division with our colleagues who are either not in the union or who are choosing not to strike. However, I definitely admire the strong stance taken by all of those that stopped work yesterday. Everyone choosing to strike was taking a stand for a cause that is bigger than their own personal situation - no one was guaranteed to improve their own situation by going out in strike. Indeed, everyone was doing so at a personal cost, by way of conceding a day's pay...
We had people attending who are on contracts that are due to expire at the end of the year - they do not know for sure if they will be around to see any benefits that may come out of this action, but they participated anyway, supporting the cause and the collective effort.
We had people attending who are permanent employees - their own situations are secure, but they were striking to support colleagues with less security beyond this year, as well as our students who will be affected by staffing and program cuts.
The Union takes a stance and makes comment on many issues - performance pay initiatives, policy decisions, meetings and general workload, performance processes, etc... I do not always agree with every stance that our Union takes on these and other issues, but for me there is one overarching concept that makes involvement in and support of the Union important - what would our conditions be like if we'd never had a Union that represented us..? Never had a collective body to represent us at EBA times, fighting for improvements in salaries, class sizes and general working conditions..?
Previous generations of teachers would have been more likely to be working second jobs to make ends meet, have larger class sizes and have less access to support and professional development.
Without a Union to fight for improvements to our conditions as a strong collective body, we would not be as far advanced as we are from those sorts of inferior conditions faced by previous generations of teachers.
This is the body that fights for us to earn every pay rise and every incremental improvement in working conditions - this is why I and many others feel the need to stand up in support on days like this to show support for and strengthen the collective body of our Union.