The Sarawak Teachers' Union is the largest union in Sarawak and the second largest union in Malaysia . It was duly recognised and registered by the Registrar of Trade Union on 29 th March 1965. Before the formation of Sarawak Teachers' Union , there were several Teachers' Associations such as the Kuching Teachers' Association, the Sibu Chinese Teachers' Association and the Sarawak Taiwan Graduates Teachers' Association.
At that time, teachers were classified as Government, Government Aided and Private Teachers. Though teachers from the Government and Government Aided schools had to abide by the same regulations, government and government aided school teachers were not given the same terms and condition of service, especially in terms of benefits such as housing loans, teachers' quarters, travelling allowance, just to mention a few. Thus, with the formation of Sarawak Teachers' Union , the teachers were able to negotiate from a position of unity and strength, the union set about redressing these inequalities.
Membership was from Government Aided School (Teachers from Government schools were not allowed to join any Trade Union at that time). Majority of the members were Chinese at that time and this led to the misconception that Sarawak Teachers' Union was formed for the Chinese teachers. STU is open to all teachers irrespective of race or creed.
Due to the foresight of our past dynamic leaders, STU was affiliated to International and National organisation. STU join World Confederation of Organisation of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) on 3 rd August 1966, International Federation of Free Teachers' Union (IFFTU) on 19 th July 1972, Malaysian Trades Union Congress ( MTUC) on 1 st May 1975, and National Joint Council for Education Service in 1986. STU is also a member of the ASEAN Council of Teachers (ACT) since 1980. STU can negotiate directly on the members' behalf with the highest authorities in our country through the National Joint Councils.
Over the years, International Affiliates, such as the American Teachers' Federation, Canadian Teachers' Federation, the Australian Teachers' Federation and International Federation of Free Trades Union through WCOTP, IFFTU and MTUC have given invaluable services and assistance to STU. They have sponsored and sent personnel to help run seminars and courses, which have helped STU tremendously. Furthermore, WCOTP and IFFTU sponsored our delegates to their world and regional conference.
STU is a founder member of the Education International, when WOCTP and IFFTU merged to form Education International in 1993.
When STU was formed, it had no premises of its own. Meetings were held in St. Thomas 's Primary school canteen, and an unused classroom as office. Then, it rent a small room at SAGOU Building as its office with a staff , before moving into a rented floor at Lee Nam Hong Building at Jalan P.Ramlee. Since 1970, STU had been organising various projects to raise fund for its own building. It was through the good office of our former president, Puan Irene Tan, that the State Government of Sarawak allocated the site for the present STU Building , which was declared open by the State Secretary of Sarawak on the 15 th December 1980.
In the past, members had to pay their subscription fees by cash on a yearly basis. Often, they faced the problems of not knowing where or whom to pay. Therefore, even though, every year quite a large number of members had been recruited, there were also many dropping out due to non-payment of fees.
Since the introduction of the salary check-off system in 1984, the membership has greatly increased. As a result, the financial situation also improves. With the increased revenue, more visits can be made to the branches, thus strengthening the bond of solidarity between grass root members and headquarters. Another good sign is the keen interest shown by members, who look beyond their immediate needs, who are positive and constructive in their approach to union problems.
STU will certainly continue to organise trade union education programmes for the benefit of its members. This will in turn strengthen the branches. Top priority is given to expose STU to teachers, to train more teachers to taken over from the present leaderships. We have a board base support through our affiliation to the various International and National Bodies.
STU will continue to address itself to the problems facing teachers and the current issues of the day, and press on with the unresolved resolutions. What members fail to realise and appreciate is that now Education is a Federal matter, all legitimates requests have to go through the federal government, and this can be time consuming. The greatest obstacle that STU has to clear is teachers' apathy towards the union. The teachers do not see themselves as a part of the union, they regard the union as the sole property of the office bearers and the success or failure rests solely with these officials. The time when teachers start to think “WE ARE THE UNION” and through the Union we can protect and promote our interest and welfare, upgrade professional skills, update our knowledge on education as well as to seek for recognition so that we can participate and formulate education development in the country. STU has always acted in responsible, disciplined, mature and cooperative manner and will continue to do so.
The Sarawak Teachers' Union , from its humble beginning on March 29 th , 1965, has grown to have an active membership nearly 17,000 . The present membership strength is still not significant enough when we have more than 33,000 teachers serving in various education institutions in the state. With improved service to members, Sarawak Teachers' Union will strive to continuously serve its members having its motto social justice and peace in mind.