NSW teachers strike in support of pay claim
By Paul Oboohov
SYDNEY — NSW school and TAFE teachers struck for 24 hours on November 23 in support of their 10% pay claim. This shut a fifth of NSW schools, with TAFE and the Education Department estimating that 68% of school teachers and 50% of TAFE teachers observed the strike.
NSW Teachers' Federation senior vice-president Denis Fitzgerald disputed these figures, saying that 80% of teachers observed the strike. Schools that operated had severely depleted staffs, with Macarthur, for example, having only 10% of teaching staff in attendance.
Teachers voted overwhelmingly at 250 statewide meetings on the day to strike again on January 31.
Federation president Phil Cross, addressing the strike meetings via satellite, said, "You only have to scratch a little under the surface to reveal that this government still has a hatred of teachers and a hatred of this union".
The strike follows other NSW public servants (police, firefighters) obtaining rises of 13-20%. The government had told teachers that the its coffers allowed a rise of only 6%.
During negotiations, the government offered to bring in an "independent" arbiter to decide whether a further element of pay rises should proceed in December next year, but the deadlock on the timing and level of the immediate rises remained. The government said it will seek a restraining order against further strike action.
The government has also moved to cut off automatic deduction of union dues by the last pay packet this year. The federation has indicated it will fight this legally.