The NSW Teachers Federation announced last week its members will strike on Wednesday, May 4 over pay and conditions.

The union’s state executive unanimously decided to proceed with strike action. They have also authorised members to walk off school grounds if a NSW government MP enters them, and have put an immediate ban on the implementation of all new government policies.

NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said the Premier has failed students, their parents, and the teaching profession.

“If we don’t pay teachers what they are worth, we won’t get the teachers we need,” he said. “That the Government is pursuing a new Award that seeks to impose a 2.04 per cent salary cap, with no change to the crippling working conditions experienced by the profession for a three-year period, is contemptuous.”

“At a time when inflation is running at 3.5 per cent and predicted to grow, this would constitute a cut to teachers’ real income.”

“Acting on uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads is the only way to stop more teachers leaving and attract the people into the profession we need to fix the shortages,” Angelo said.

Union Country Organiser Waine Donovan, who covers schools over 106 schools including the Yass Valley and Queanbeyan areas, said there’s a worsening crisis in our classrooms due to the teacher shortage.

“Kids are missing out and our teachers are being pushed to breaking point.”

Waine said although many agencies point to the coronavirus pandemic as the cause, the problems predated Covid and it has just made a bad situation worse. According to the union in February this year there were over 2,300 unfilled vacancies across NSW public schools.

Teachers are working longer hours and according to a poll of its over 10,000 members conducted by the union – 90 per cent said they were not paid enough, 73 per cent said their workload was unmanageable, and 70 per cent said they are reconsidering their position due to workload.

“We’re also asking for two hours extra release from face-to-face time,” Waine said. “Non-teaching time in high schools hasn’t changed since the 1950s and non-teaching time in primary schools hasn’t changed since the 1980s.”

“The workload that the department is putting on teachers is untenable and unmanageable, and the two hours extra release from face-to-face teaching that we’re asking for will go a little way to help relieve some of that unmanageable workload.”

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet acknowledged the concerns of teachers but said the decision to go on strike was disappointing.

“They have a right to be frustrated, it’s been a very disruptive two years for our parents and for our students,” he said.

“That’s why it’s disappointing that they’re choosing to strike.”

“I’ve made it very clear that we’ll work through these issues, and we’ll get a good outcome on the other side.”

The NSW Teachers Federation President said the profession is now left with no alternative but to act in the interest of their students and their profession and take industrial action.

“One of the most fundamental roles of a government is to ensure there is a qualified teacher in every classroom with the time and support to meet the needs of each child,” he said. “The teacher shortage has created a crisis in our classrooms.”

“Government report after government report has stated the main reasons why people don’t want to enter the profession and why teachers don’t want to stay in the profession are unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive salaries.”

“The solution to the teacher shortage and its causes, unsustainable working conditions and uncompetitive pay cannot be addressed nor resolved in the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC),” Angelo said.

“The Government’s own regulations effectively prevent the IRC from addressing the causes of the teacher shortage. Its own regulations will result in a predetermined outcome consistent with the government’s 2.5 per cent salary cap.”

Brianna O’Rourke