Mass mobilisations needed

Two thirds of our Gonski funding has been stolen by the Coalition and our response is to lobby these people. Our leaders dismiss the use of the successful national mass mobilisation strategy used during the Your Rights at Work campaign and have consistently argued against mass mobilisations over many years.

Mass mobilisations raise the political price for governments making bad decisions, generating tremendous media, for example, the 60,000 strong Climate Day of Action last November. Frequent anti-mobilisation arguments include “One rally doesn’t change anything”. This argument completely misses the point. The intermittent use of mobilisations inspires people and demonstrates the power of collective action. They also have an invisible ripple effect and that lasts a long time. Yet another anti-mobilisation argument is, “What happens the day after?” You go back to your community, spread the word and encourage others to join you at the next mobilisation. These lessons are evident from Vietnam moratoriums, East Timor rallies, the suffragettes and countless other successful campaigns.

“Times have changed and people don’t mobilise anymore.” Nonsense. The Stop Coal Seam Gas rallies, Marches in March and even protests against shark culling demonstrate people mobilise around issues they are passionate about when encouraged and led. Parents, teachers and students will mobilise for funding justice if our leaders have the confidence to lead them.

“But we’ve gotten this far without mobilising.” Yes we have but can you imagine if we had supported our lobbying with a mass mobilisation strategy.

“You’re calling for a strike.” While strikes are a very powerful tool, mass mobilisations do not have to be strikes. As with successful East Timor mobilisations, they can take place on a weekend or after work. Mass mobilisations and lobbying go hand in hand. Mobilisations provide lobbyists with evidence of mass support. Politicians are less likely to dismiss visits from Federation members after rallies of thousands and Gonski funding has this potential.

“But we’ve had mobilisations.” Our Tumbalong Park action and rallies in regional areas were great, but what’s needed is the style of actions organised during the Your Rights at Work campaign, which simultaneously mobilised thousands in cities and regional areas. Our advertising campaigns prove the Australian Education Union (AEU) has the resources, finances and networks to do this. As the strongest AEU branch, Federation needs to set an example and inspire other branches into taking similar action. As the strongest we should lead, inspire and set the example.

John Gauci
Taverners Hill Infants

Disappointing and quite embarrassing

The last few months have seen an inspiring outpouring of people to the streets in protest about everything from corporate greed to the lack of concern for and action on the environment to funding cuts to health, education and other state and federal social services. The March in March was the first in an ongoing series of street demonstrations organised through social media networks. The recent March in May saw an unprecedented response in the form of people power to a Budget that disadvantages the most vulnerable with substantial measures that include reductions in funding to pensions and other welfare support as well as further deregulation, privatisation and corporatisation of the public sector, including schools.

It was therefore very disappointing and quite embarrassing that there was not a single Teachers Federation flag or banner at the March in May protest that swelled to 10,000 people by conservative estimates. There were plenty of Teachers Federation members looking out and asking around for their union’s banner under which to gather to visibly and loudly oppose the effects of the budget on public education and the ideology that underpins it. We watched enviously as colleagues from the National Tertiary Education Union stood shoulder to shoulder under their banner in defence of their students and courses and we saw a few TAFE t-shirts highlighting their issues but the biggest section of public education was not represented. I find this inexcusable.

It is the duty of union leaders to mobilise and lead their members in opposition to policies and practices that strike at the heart of what we do as workers. A media release or a request for over-worked busy teachers to lobby their local Liberal or ALP politician is not a response commensurate to the severity of the attack on our working conditions and our dignity as educators. This is insulting! I expect to see expedient and intelligent leadership from those leading our union by fully endorsing and actively supporting the next community outcry by being there in the streets with us, for us, leading our noisy passionate cohort proudly and defiantly!

Noreen Navin
Federation Representative
Kingsgrove HS