More than 20,000 teachers marched from Hyde Park to New South Wales Parliament on June 30 to demand a pay rise and better teaching conditions.
The NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) and the Independent Education Association (IEU) NSW/ACT took strike action together for the first time since 1996. Rallies and meetings were also held around NSW and the ACT.
Public school teachers wearing red T-shirts and independent teachers wearing yellow T-shirts chanted “Teachers united will never be defeated!” and “What do we want? More than thanks!” Teachers bought a variety of home-made colourful placards, including: “Yes, we shall strike again, until you listen to us!” and “Thanks won’t buy us a lettuce”.
“It’s an incredible unity of red and yellow,” IEU president Christine Wilkinson told the crowd in front of parliament.
“The education system is broken. Teachers in both sectors are drowning in ever increasing workloads. Students are suffering in overcrowded classrooms. Our students are our future, and deserve the best possible education.”
A Sydney primary school teacher said: “Premier [Dominic] Perrottet and the education minister just don’t seem to get it. We are burnt out. We need more teachers. We’re standing up for our students and our profession.”
IEU secretary Mark Northam said: “The NSW public sector salary cap has got to go … that cap catches us up in the Catholic sector as well as the public system. We all need a fair deal and a fair go.”
NSWTF president Angelo Gavrielatos told the strikers: “The government needs to act in the interests of students. It’s failing students. It’s failing the profession.” He said the teacher shortage was “the government’s own making” because it has known “for years” that uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads have stopped people from joining the profession.
“The government must agree to scrap the [public sector wages] cap,” Gavrielatos said. “We will keep campaigning right up to the state election next March if they don’t.”
The union described the Perrottet government’s 3% pay rise offer to public sector teachers as an “insult”. Teachers rejected this offer and called for pay rises of between 5–7.5%.
The NSWTF said there are almost 2000 teacher vacancies across the state, with more than half of those in regional areas. It said the problem would only be fixed with better wages.
This is the third state-wide action by teachers in seven months. Together, the NSWTF and IEU NSW/ACT represent more than 85,000 members.
Video: Public and private school teachers on strike across NSW. Green Left.