Dozens of Victorian teachers gathered yesterday and today outside the Victorian Department of Education in Melbourne in response to an email that was sent out to teachers by Executive Director for Education Mr Tony Bugden.
The email sent out on the 10th of December outlined punitive measures the department will be enforcing on Teachers who do not take a Covid 19 vaccination. In this newest blow to unvaccinated teachers following the October 15 mandate, teachers have been ordered to update and verify their vaccination status to fully vaccinated through the states HR and payroll portal Edupay by tomorrow the 18th of December or have their holiday leave entitlements withheld and their positions suspended without pay from the beginning of term one January 2022.
This impossible timeframe of 8 days for unvaccinated teachers comes as a low blow, leaving the lively hoods and security of many who are already struggling hanging by a thread with just over a week till Christmas. With their jobs not effectively terminated until April 25th 2022, they will not be able to receive any assistance from the federal government until that date. It’s been estimated that the teachers gathered represent between 2-3 thousand who have been unjustly affected by the orders from Mr Bugden and Minister for Education James Merlino, who is currently serving as acting Premier. So far there has been no response to demands from the group to clarify the decision and reinstate holiday pay entitlements. Attempts to contact Mr Bugden’s office for comment by AFIPN were also unsuccessful.
In an interview with AFIPN yesterday, Teacher of 5 years Ms Aimee Gumina highlighted that the department had “Backflipped on their original decision that they made on the 15th of October to honour leave entitlements for those who were going on leave whether it was for the Vax mandate or not.” Ms Gumina also brought to light that many colleagues and even school principals were unaware of the existence of the email and its directives. When asked about her situation she said that she stands to lose $8000 over the holidays and is having to now dip into savings to keep herself going with no plan ahead for 2022.
Teacher of 36 years Kerrie Shearer, who has been teaching from home in an online school capacity over the last two years told AFIPN that she will still be kept from accessing her entitlements stating that the excuse given to her by the school was that she “might have to rock up to meet a parent at some point” even though she hadn’t done so in person throughout her role with the school to date. Mrs Shearer with an air of disbelief said that she felt that the teacher’s union which she had been a long term member of had “deserted us”. She expressed disgust in the department saying “It’s shameful and criminal, and they shouldn’t be allowed to do this.” Her requests for clarity have been handballed back and forth with no accountability by the school or the Department of Education.
Veteran special needs teacher Peter Murphy, wearing a shirt saying “Hold the line, Teacher” who loves teaching but is now out of a job because of his unvaccinated status is concerned for the welfare of his students who have been devastated by his removal from the classroom on-top of all the other tribulations the pandemic has had thus far. “As special needs kids they develop a close bond with their teacher, it’s a very difficult time,” he said.
Mr Murphy when asked what advice he had for up and coming teachers entering the workforce said “We have to continue to instil those values, those morals, those ideals that are very much Australian. Look forward to changes, but sometimes you have to be the change, you’ve got to be the catalyst for change because, in the end, your change leads your students to be the change as well.”
Protests continue in Melbourne and across the country over the weekend with big numbers expected once again to march the streets for the freedom to choose and for the abolishment of Premier Daniel Andrews pandemic bill that came into effect just two days ago after its scandalous approval by the Victorian parliament.