Public school teachers in New South Wales are striking today after negotiations between the Teachers Federation Council and the state government failed to reach an agreement about wages.
An Industrial Relations Commission order had instructed them to abandon their action, but many have walked off the job.
Discussions have been ongoing for 18 months regarding a 2.5% salary cap that has constrained wage growth in the industry for 10 years.
Teachers and principals have been pursuing a rise in salaries of between 5 – 7.5% at a time when private businesses have collapsed due to Covid lockdowns.
Staff shortages are said to be behind the push to raise the cap, despite hundreds of teachers being forced out of the profession in the last month due to state-imposed vaccine mandates. Predictions made by the organisation state that New South Wales public schools will run out of teachers within five years.
“In fact since June the teacher shortage has doubled in our schools, [there are] 2,000 vacancies today from Bondi to Broken Hill and these shortages will grow over the course of the next number of years,” said Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos.
During the negotiation process, the state government disagreed with the assertion made by the Teachers Federation Council, pointing out that current vacancy rates inside the profession are in line with other industries and covered by casual work.
Some state MPs have come out in support of the strike. Helen Dalton, the Member for Murray and an ex-school teacher, tweeting her support.
The strike comes after children have only just returned to classrooms. Support for the strike is mixed, with many parents taking to social media to complain about teachers adding further disruption to the education system after a particularly difficult year for students.
Unions across the state have warned of a 'summer of chaos' with more action on the horizon in other industries with Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RBTU) refusing to drive overseas-made trains, which make up 75% of the state’s rail network.
Union members are calling for a pay increase of more than 2.5 per cent and have also voiced safety concerns over the trains.
The strikes are set to continue chaos across the city, adding to delayed services, longer journey times and buses replacing trains on some routes.