Australia

‘More than thanks’: Thousands of teachers strike over staff shortages and pay

Thousands of public and Catholic schools have rallied in NSW and the ACT demanding better wages and working conditions.
The decision to take 24-hour joint strike action on 30 June was made after a meeting between the executives of the NSW Teachers Federation and the Independent Education Union of Australia (NSW/ACT), with members of both unions rallying in Macquarie Street, Sydney, as well as in regional locations across NSW and the ACT.
Dressed in red shirts emblazoned with the text “More than Thanks”, teachers at the protest in Sydney’s CBD called on the government to offer them more than a three per cent pay rise.
The NSW Teachers Federation is asking for a pay rise of between five and seven per cent.
Many protesters held up satirical placards poking fun at inflation, such as “Thanks won’t buy lettuce”, to make the point that living costs have soared.

It is the third strike in six months called by the NSW Teachers Federation and Independent Education Union NSW/ACT, representing 85,000 teachers.

Teachers march to State Parliament during a strike by NSW public school and Catholic school teachers in Sydney, on Thursday, 30 June 2022. Source: AAP / NIKKI SHORT/AAPIMAGE

The strike is expected to have affected about a million families statewide, just a day before a two-week school break.

Peter Kitonga, 50, a legal studies teacher at Sir Joseph Banks High School in Revesby in western Sydney, said he was fed up with deteriorating working conditions.
“I have been working as a public school teacher for 13 years and our salaries have not kept up with inflation,” he told AAP.
“It’s the duty of the government to ensure that students have a qualified teacher in front of them. You can bring teachers on board by giving them better pay.”
Crisis ‘government’s own making’
It was the first time in more than 25 years that both unions have joined forces to strike for 24 hours.

“We have a crisis in the form of a teacher shortage, a crisis that is the government’s own making,” NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said.

“The government has known for years the causes of this crisis: uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads.”
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell is disappointed by the decision to strike and says it is politically motivated.
Most schools will have some minimal supervision, but a percentage of schools will be closed for the day.

Ms Mitchell defended the government’s public sector wages policy, calling it the most generous in the country.

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Meanwhile, the rail union says industrial action will continue this week, despite a verbal commitment from Transport Minister David Elliott to spend $264 million on safety modifications of a Korean-made fleet.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been locked in a long-running stoush with the government over the modifications. Negotiations are continuing on Thursday.
Sydney Trains CEO Matt Longland says the network is operating at reduced capacity, resembling a weekend timetable.
He advised commuters to avoid train travel or allow extra time because services will be less frequent and carriages more crowded.
“Normally in the peak period customers wait one or two, maybe three minutes for a train,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Thursday.

“This morning it will be closer to 10, maybe 15 minutes.”

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