Victorian teachers are asking for a 21 per cent pay rise over the next three years, in a significant test of the Andrews government's promise to make Victoria the 'Education State'.
They are also demanding relief from an ever-expanding workload and a reduction in the use of short-term contracts.
Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said the government needed to pay teachers more if it wanted to attract and retain talented staff, and recognise their important work.
"This is a significant opportunity for the government to show their support for school staff's day-to-day working lives and conditions," she said.
The AEU handed its log of claims to the Andrews government just before Christmas. Enterprise bargaining negotiations for about 60,000 teachers, support staff and principals are due to start in coming weeks.
The union is pushing for three pay increases of 7 per cent from the end of October – when the current enterprise bargaining agreement expires – to 2019.
It is calling for a reduction in the use of short-term contracts, amid growing concerns about the increasing casualisation of the teaching workforce.
One in five Victorian teachers and 45 per cent of support staff, including teaching aides, are on short-term contracts.
"We need to offer school staff secure employment and pay them reasonable salaries," Ms Peace said.
The AEU recently told a state government inquiry into labour hire and insecure work that ongoing employment was one of the biggest stresses for graduate teachers, with staff on short-term contracts struggling to get home loans and plan for their futures.
"We see the EBA as one of a number of ways that the government can demonstrate their commitment to the Education State," Ms Peace said.
It hopes to avoid a repeat of its bitter 18 month pay dispute with the former Napthine government, which led to three statewide strikes, a controversial ban on comments in report cards and a ban on teachers working outside the 38-hour week.
It followed the former state government promising to make Victorian teachers the best paid in the country. ( which they reneged on)
Victoria's most experienced classroom teachers and graduates lag behind Western Australia, Northern Territory and NSW when it comes to pay.
The proposed deal would significantly boost the salaries of all school staff, including graduate teachers, who currently receive $63,356, and top classroom teachers, who receive $94,961 a year.
Workload issues also feature prominently in the union's log of claims.
Teachers are expected to do more and more, often out of school hours, and technology means they are in constant contact with parents and students, Ms Peace said.
They provide students with individualised learning, send real-time reports to parents and need to find time to collaborate with staff.
"There needs to be a recognition that this is additional work on top of the important work we are already doing, like teaching kids numeracy, literacy and life skills," she said.
A government spokesman said the EBA aimed to reach a fair and sustainable agreement for principals, teachers and support staff.
"The Andrews government is working to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome in a timely manner," he said.
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said she expected to start negotiations in May for a separate deal for principals.
If successful, it would be the first time principals had a separate agreement to other education department employees. "We have a log of claims that appreciates the complexity of the role of the principal and their many-faceted responsibilities and accountabilities," Ms Podbury said.
The Andrews government is in a bitter pay dispute with the firefighter's union, but secured a quick deal with the police union last year and resolved a long-running pay dispute with paramedics as soon as it won office.
A fight between Metro, Yarra Trams and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union also caused headaches for the government with the first tram and train strikes in decades.