POLL: Half-day strike to start next school term

 HUNTER schools are expected to be thrown into disarray at the start of next term as support staff join an estimated 5000 of the region’s public servants in a half-day strike.

School administration officers, teachers aids and general assistants will join community service, disability and other government department workers in the stop work between 9am and 1pm on the first day of term.

Teachers will remain on the job on October 8 but selected special schools are expected to be closed because there will be no qualified staff to administer medications.

Other schools are expected to have the front office closed, have no teacher’s aids to deal with troublesome students while some have scheduled staff development days.

Parents have been urged to check with their local school about arrangements.

A NSW Education Department spokesman said a number of the region’s ten special schools would be affected.

‘‘All parents in schools where students will be affected by the industrial action were advised of this by their principal last week,’’ he said.

Public Service Association senior industrial officer Maria Cirillo said staff would stop work to protest job cuts in education, devolution to schools and threats to public servants’ salary benefits.

On the chopping block are conditions such as 17.5 per cent annual leave loading.

‘‘Enough is enough,’’ Ms Cirillo said.

‘‘Previously, members were considered front line workers because they work alongside teachers.

‘‘If our members aren’t there our teacher’s won’t be free to teach.’’

Ms Cirillo said it was unusual for members to take industrial action and they had been overwhelmed by the response from members.

‘‘Most of our members voted for this government and feel like they have been betrayed,’’ she said.

Breastfeeding breaks 

 SCHOOL teachers will be eligible for breastfeeding breaks and domestic violence leave under new teachers’ union negotiated entitlements.

The NSW Education Department and NSW Teachers Federation have negotiated to allow women teachers to have a half-hour ‘‘lactation break’’ for every four hours they work.

The breaks can be used to breastfeed or express milk.

Under the changes school also have to make an effort to provide a lockable, private room with a power point, hand washing facilities, fridge and storage space for women to breastfeed or pump.

Women in corrective services, Board of Studies and TAFE Institute Managers will be eligible for the breaks.

NSW Teachers Federation Hunter organiser Fred Dumbrell said it would help mothers who did not take all 12 months maternity leave and needed to return to work.

‘‘At many schools there’s not private facilities for women to express milk.’’

The same staff will also be eligible for domestic violence leave but the teachers union is still pursuing the same provision for TAFE teachers.

The leave can be used to attend medical, legal and court appointments as long as documentation is provided.

Mr Dumbrell said they were ‘‘unfortunately necessary’’.

He said teachers worked more days each year than power station workers and only took, on average, between seven and nine days leave each year.

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