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“One Teacher Covering Seven Classes”: Why Teachers Are Striking In NSW

The fight against burnout and wage caps continues.

Teachers across New South Wales are striking for pay increases in order to address a major teacher shortage. Thousands of teachers walked off the job on Wednesday to march from Hyde Park to Macquarie Street in a sea of red T-shirts emblazoned with the words, “More than thanks”. 

“For me, it’s about teacher vacancies,” Leah Moon, Head of Teaching and Learning at Kirrawee High School told marie claire Australia during the march. 

“There are so many permanent vacancies we can’t fill, and we have some teachers covering seven classes. If we don’t fix the problem now, we won’t have teachers for the future.”

(Credit: Getty)

Signs including phrases like, “How can we put students first if we put teachers last?” and “Teacher working conditions are student working conditions” were thrusted forward as thousands of teachers marched and chanted in unison. 

Teachers are fighting against a culture of 60 hour work weeks and workloads stretched to the point they cannot cater to the students—federal government modelling has even suggested that NSW will be short-staffed by 1,700 educators within three years, per The Guardian.

In a bid to attract more people to the profession, the Union is asking for a wage increase between 5 per cent and 7.5 per cent, a jump from the current public sector wage cap at 2.5 per cent. 

The NSW Teachers Federation president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said in a statement that the Perrottet government had “failed” to negotiate a good deal. 

“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.

“The profession is now left with no alternative but to act in the interest of our students and our profession, and take industrial action.”

Last night, Premier Dominic Perrottet issued an 11th hour plea to call off the strike on Wednesday, appealing for teachers to wait until the June budget was released. The government previously said it would review teachers wages as part of it. 

Perrottet has previously said that NSW’s 2.5 per cent public sector wage cap could be scrapped in the budget, but teachers still await a wage policy to replace it. 

Gavrielatos said that there was “no guarantee” that this would actually happen. 

“Last week we got a vague announcement by the Premier that they will look at salaries in the context of the budget,” he said in a statement.

(Credit: Supplied)

The teachers strike is just one element of major industrial action taken by workers in the public sector. 

Within the past three months, nurses, paramedics and train drivers have also gone on strike for better pay. 

The subsequent disruption has caused major havoc within these crucial sectors—if you’re a commuter who relies on trains within NSW, you’ll no doubt have felt the knock on effect. For now, we simply wait in hope that the government will listen. 

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