Thousands of public school teachers across NSW will go on strike over pay and conditions, despite a court order that they stay in the classroom.
It will be the first mass teachers’ strike in the state in more than a decade and has parents scrambling make arrangements for their children if schools are not open.
The Teachers Federation apologised for the disruption but said it had no option after 18 months of trying to negotiate improvements to working conditions.
The federation said the main issues were a 2.5 per cent cap on wage increases that has been in place for 10 years and chronic teacher shortages.
NSW public school teachers (teacher and pupils pictured) are going on strike over pay and conditions on Tuesday. It will be the first mass teachers’ strike in the state in more than a decade
Teachers and principals are seeking a salary increase of between 5 and 7.5 per cent a year, in line with recommendations made by the independent Gallop inquiry.
Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said this would ‘begin to reverse the decline in teachers’ wages compared to other professions’.
The union seized on government and departmental documents showing a ‘large and growing shortage of teachers’ that is forcing them to teach outside their areas of expertise.
Mr Gavrielatos said the government was missing a coherent strategy to fill 3000 vacant positions
‘Since June the teacher shortage has doubled in our schools, [there are] 3,000 vacancies today from Bondi to Broken Hill and these shortages will grow over the course of the next number of years,’ he said.
‘The NSW Government is concerned about children missing out for one day, but we are concerned about children missing out every day because there simply aren’t enough teachers.’
Teachers’ workloads were ‘unmanageable’ and a wage cap meant their salaries didn’t ‘reflect the skills or responsibilities they have’.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said Tuesday’s teachers’ strike was going ahead while talks are still underway
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the strike was going ahead while talks are still underway.
‘Despite the ruling of the Industrial Relations Commission that the action not take place… the federation seem hell bent on this disruption,’ she said.
‘I think for our kids it’s been a hard enough year for them already, we need to have them in the classroom each and every day.’
A NSW Department of Education report warned the government that public schools in the state would run out of teachers in the next five years.
NSW needs another 11,000 teachers over the next 10 years because of a baby boom, but there has been a 30 per cent drop in people studying to be teachers and a 50 per cent drop out rate among those who start the training.
But the union’s claims about staff shortages was disputed by the Education Department, which said the vacancy rate in NSW for teachers was actually low.
‘A vacancy in a school is covered by a casual or temporary teacher and does not mean a class is without a teacher,’ it said.
Individual schools would decide whether there were enough staff on the premises to supervise, but not teach, children who show up.
Parents were advised to make other arrangements for their children, but they could also contact their school to see if childcare was available.
The Education Department said most NSW public schools would be open to supervise pupils.
Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos says teacher shortages have doubled since June
Parents were told which schools will be closed and the pupils from them will be able to access learning from home material.
Department of Education secretary Georgina Harrisson said she understood the frustration of families, especially as the past two school years have already been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘We are doing all we can to ensure learning continues without disruption, especially given the challenges students, teachers and families have experienced this year,’ she said.
Ms Harrisson called on teachers to comply with the Industrial Relations Commission’s order on the matter and not strike.
‘The department is still negotiating with the federation on their claims and the place for this is in the IRC,’ she said.
The last time teachers held a mass walkout in NSW was in 2011. Thousands protested outside state parliament over a 2.5 per cent cap on public sector pay rises.
The IRC fined the teachers’ union $6,000.
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