Paula Pope is a sole parent who works as a sessional teacher. She teaches in the Associate Diploma of Community Development at Broadmeadows TAFE.
“I get paid $23 per hour, but only for the time I spend in front of the class. I don’t get paid for preparation, or for administrative work or assessment. I kept a record and discovered that for three hours’ pay, I was working up to eight hours of actual labour. You also have to consider that there is no sick pay or holiday pay. You don’t get any long service leave or have access to maternity leave.
There are many difficulties for me as someone who wants to relate to my students and give really good service. You just can’t do it. You have students in your classes who have special needs who really require a bit of extra time. But you don’t have any time to do student welfare. Job satisfaction is a joke. I feel students are really being let down within the system. I feel so exploited myself within the system.
The photocopier is stuck in a tiny windowless room. I know it is a dangerous environment, but I am not in contact with other teachers. Being a sessional, you don’t have the opportunity to even talk with other workers, let alone organise around issues.
When I first started, I went to a union meeting. I asked the delegate about joining, but he really put me off. He thought that as a sessional, it wasn’t worth my while to join the union. I think that is really bad, because our interests are common. The delegate was obviously feeling very demoralised. Later on, he put a lot of effort into making sure I got information. The wage rates and conditions of the sessionals are being used to undermine all of the other teachers’ conditions. They really need us to join the union, and the union needs to organise around our issues. We are the most exploited at the moment, and this is setting the tune for everyone else. Just imagine if all of the sessionals went out! The TAFE system has put itself in a situation where it is really dependent on our labour.”