State takes action against teachers

THE Baillieu government has launched legal action against the teachers' union in the middle of pay talks, alleging some of its claims for a cut in the number of short-term contracts cannot be included in an enterprise bargaining agreement.

Lawyers for the government are seeking an injunction in the Federal Court to stop teachers' industrial action, including the proposed strike next week and bans on unpaid overtime that place school camps, excursions, school fetes and sport at risk.

They are also seeking a ruling that a range of items in the log of claims - served by the Australian Education Union on December 2010 - cannot be approved by the Fair Work Commission, thus rendering unlawful any industrial action in support of those claims.

Fairfax Media understands the union claims the government is referring to include:

■Automatically making any employee on a short-term contract ongoing if they have been continuously employed at a school for three years.

■Only considering retrenchments if redeployments and retraining opportunities have been explored for longer than 12 months.

■Paying contract employees between their fixed periods of employment.

■Advertising a short-term vacancy if it exceeds six months.

The government's application to the Federal Court is seeking a declaration the Fair Work Commission has no power to approve these claims.

''The AEU claims impair the capacity of the state of Victoria to determine the number and identity of the persons whom it wishes to employ, the term of appointment of such persons, and the number and identity of persons whom it wishes to dismiss on redundancy grounds,'' it says.

The government is asking the Federal Court to order the AEU and Community and Public Sector Union to cancel industrial action by teachers, principals and educational support staff by 6pm on February 8. The application will be heard by Justice Christopher Jessup on Thursday.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Robert Clark said the legal action followed the failure of the unions to call off industrial action despite being given warning of the government's intention to issue legal proceedings.

''The Victorian government considers the proposed industrial action is unlawful under the Fair Work Act and would continue the AEU's unjustifiable disruption of children's education and the work arrangements of families and their employers,'' he said.

Education Department negotiators will continue to meet the union this week. AEU state president Meredith Peace was ''incredibly disappointed'' the government had launched legal action on the same day it held negotiations to try to resolve the dispute. CPSU branch secretary Karen Batt, who represents some of the 18,000 education support staff, said Mr Clark's ''contemptuous'' action would be vigorously defended.

Teachers want a 12.6 per cent pay rise over three years and a cut in contract employment. The union originally sought a 30 per cent rise over three years, consistent with the Coalition's pre-election promise to make them the highest paid in Australia.

This story State takes action against teachers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.