You get what you bargain for

John Roughan looks at why it is the teachers are tits at industrial relations and as a consequence have tits pay: Quote:

My granddaughter is in Year 2 at her nearest primary school and loving it. For that I thank her teachers. They work hard to make schools happy, lively, friendly, healthy and stimulating for all children. But teachers will never be paid what they deserve until they organise themselves professionally.

I’m not talking about primitive industrial tactics and pathetic placards in the streets, though those are bad enough. I don’t know whether my granddaughter knew why we were looking after her on Wednesday. If she did, she didn’t mention it, for which I was grateful.

How do you reinforce their respect for teachers who want more pay and have refused to work that day to show how angry they are? Children understand that is what a child would do but not adults in their experience. They are too young to understand that the reason teachers are not well paid is that they adhere to bargaining structures designed to protect the weakest in their ranks rather than sell their best work at its market value.   

This is teachers’ choice and they are proud of it. Their collective philosophy is opposed to markets. Their representatives are forever proclaiming education is “not a commodity”, whatever that means. Education is a most valuable commodity for which a lot of people are prepared to pay. I suppose they mean it should not be denied to those unable to pay, like the other big item of taxpayers’ support, healthcare.

But providers of primary healthcare, doctors in general practice, don’t organise themselves like teachers, they don’t need to go on strike and they are paid better.
The big divergence between the providers of health and education happened at the creation of the welfare state. Doctors fiercely resisted the first Labour Government’s wish to make medical services free to everyone and fought to retain the right to charge a fee.

They fought for that right again in the 1980s when the fourth Labour Government changed its financing of primary healthcare from a subsidy for visits to a regular payment based on the number of people enrolled with a practice, much like schools.

But too few education practitioners ever fought for the right to charge fees. Quite the contrary, most of them fiercely embraced a philosophy that state-funded education ought to be completely free. So much so, state school fees had to be styled voluntary donations and principals were apologetic about asking for them, always arguing the government grant was not enough for all the education they wanted to provide.

Most parents don’t mind paying some fees for their children’s education and most could probably afford to pay much more than they are asked. My parents put five children through Catholic schools and they did it on a primary teacher’s salary, supplemented by Dad’s work in a wool store in his summer holidays. Teachers have never been well paid and never will be until they stop promoting this philosophy that school should be free. End quote.

The old adage you get what you pay for has never been more true than today. Let me put this into a context we can all understand. My mentor once told me to educate myself in sales techniques, and made a suggestion of someone to follow. I duly went out and attended a sales seminar with this person, bought CDs and tapes of his sales training and proceeded to learn while I drove around. I played the CDs and tapes in my car instead of listening to the radio. Why did I do this? Well, because I paid a small fortune, investing in my own education in sales. Later, when I employed sales people I gave them copies of the materials, and implored them to do the same. My mistake was giving it to them. Not a single sales person I employed bothered to even listen to a minute of the CDs, let alone turn a page of the course materials. They didn’t value it as it was given to them. They hadn’t valued the learning opportunity since it wasn’t their money that was invested in their learning. Slowly, over the course of the year I fired every single one of them. They were “canoes” (no sails/sales). But they could have done what I did and booked loads of sales if only they had valued the “free” education I had given them. Quote:

Boards of trustees had been set up by the fourth Labour Government to make schools a little more like general medical practices, bulk funded with more autonomy to spend their grant as they thought best. Teachers’ unions fought to remove their salaries from bulk funding in order to preserve their national bargaining role.

Teachers seemed fearful their pay would be cut in direct bargaining with schools, though almost certainly the opposite would have happened.

Schools would have paid more for the staff they valued, employing them more efficiently, finding savings in expenses much less important than teachers, as charter schools do, and raising their fees if they were allowed to.

Doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professions are better paid because they are business-like. Teachers could be too. Teachers could set up schools in the same way other professionals set up their practices. School administration would not be very different since boards are already dominated by principals and senior teachers. They just need more power to negotiate staff salaries and charge realistic fees.

If salaries and fees were closer to the true value of schooling, state grants could be more heavily weighted to those who cannot afford fees and provide a more equitable service to poor places than the schools struggling to maintain their rolls in those places today.

But nothing will be improved by unions content to make the occasional hit on a Labour government. When teachers lament their low pay they need to be reminded it’s their choice. End quote.

Teacher unions act worse than the children they teach. Little wonder no serious adult has any time for them. They literally get what they deserve because the union represents the lowest common denominator and dud teachers. Instead of being a union for excellence. Sure they mouth those platitudes, but they don’t seriously mean it, otherwise they’d be bargaining hard for performance pay. When I worked for a bank I doubled my salary by leaving the union and negotiating my own package. Not for me the scaled pay grades based on longevity rather than performance. Teachers should do the same.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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