South Australian teachers have voted in favour of strike action on the first day of term amid ongoing concerns over the government’s plans to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.
The Australian Education Union says a ballot of its members returned an almost two-thirds majority in favour of the strike on February 2 after it previously advocated for a two-week delay in the start of the school year.
But it says some things have changed since the vote was taken after constructive negotiations with the state government.
The AEU executive will meet on Tuesday to consider the government’s response to issues including the ongoing safety of students and staff and whether its plans will slow the spread of the virus.
“If the executive believes sufficient progress has been made then members will be re-balloted to postpone the action,” the union said in a statement.
“Conversely, if the executive is dissatisfied then the action will remain on foot pending any timely additional progress in discussions.”
Under the government’s plan, schools will be open from January 31 for children of essential workers and for students considered vulnerable.
Students in reception, years 1, 7, 8 and 12 will then return on February 2 with other years resuming face-to-face classes from February 14 after two weeks of online learning.
There will be no widespread rapid antigen testing for students or teachers, although teachers will be provided with tests if they are considered a close contact of a positive case.
If they test negative they will be able to continue teaching.
Education Minister John Gardner said the union raised 19 issues with the education department and had received a response, but some matters, including the proposed start dates, would not be changed.
“A number of things the union has asked for are part of our COVID safe plans anyway,” he said.
“I’m very confident that with a number of the other issues, we’ll be able to get closer in the coming days.”
Teacher concerns over the return to school come as SA’s daily COVID-19 infections continue to drop.
On Monday, the state reported 2009 new cases, its lowest daily total since December 30.