Doorstop Interview: Teacher’s industrial action

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PRUE CAR MP
NSW LABOR DEPUTY LEADER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

PRUE CAR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Just a few words about teachers for me this afternoon. Well, today we’ve seen around 15,000 Teachers march on Parliament House on Macquarie Street and behind every one of those teachers are stories of how the current crisis is impacting on student learning. Every single one of those teachers has brought stories with them about merge classes, cancelled classes, shortages, and the refusal of the government to listen to their concerns about their working conditions. I was standing next to a teacher that was holding up a sign and her sign said I’d rather be teaching, but this is important, and that really encapsulates the spirit of what has occurred out there today and the fact of why we have 15,000 Teachers marching on Macquarie Street, teachers that didn’t march or strike under Gladys Berejiklian or Mike Baird or Barry O’Farrell but Dominic Perrottet refuses to listen.

Everything in New South Wales is going up, except wages. The cost of living, everyone knows is out of control. These are teachers that just can’t pay their mortgages, pay their rents, their grocery bills, fill up their cars, and the government simply will not even listen to them. They’ve been worn time and time again, about the chronic teacher shortage across the state and they have failed to do anything. There are 1000s of teacher vacancies across the state of New South Wales and as a result, we’re seeing merged classes in almost every school each and every day. Parents know this is a reality and this is why we have 15,000 teachers so upset with the treatment from the government that they are marching on Macquarie Street to desperately try and get Dominic Perrottet for once to listen.

On top of this, we had the revelation that while they keep telling teachers, nurses, paramedics, key workers, that we can’t afford anything that we can’t afford any pay increase so they’ve secretly managed to get their own top advisors, a huge pay increase to the point where they’re paid well in excess of twice what your your most experienced school principal is paid. Dominic Perrottet’s advisors are paid twice the amount of the most experienced school principal, and they’ve snuck that through while telling teachers and nurses, paramedics and key workers have gone through COVID to just suck it up.

The government can’t have it both ways. They can’t keep raising tolls, fines, taxes, charges on the families of Sydney in particular, suburban Sydney and not actually do anything about wages. Dominic Perrottet, I’ll just say one thing about the budget, Dominic Perrottet and Matt Kean keep trying to hint that there might be some way of resolving this in the upcoming state budget. If that is the case, tell the teachers and nurses what it is today. It’s only a few weeks away. But that’s a few more weeks of trying to make your mortgage repayments, your rental payments, your grocery bills, and fill up your car with the ever increasing cost of petrol. That just shows just how out of touch they are. That they think that teachers or nurses can wait. If there’s going to be some sort of resolution to this in the next few weeks in the budget. Just tell us what it is. This is a silly situation that Dominic Perrottet has got himself in where he’s not managed the teacher shortage, he won’t meet the teachers and he will not acknowledge that they have genuine concerns, genuine concerns about meeting their day to day costs in a state where cost of living is out of control.

JOURNALIST: So if you’re Education Minister April next year, what is the pay increase under a Labor Government?

CAR: Well, we can’t negotiate from opposition. This is a set of circumstances that Dominic Perrottet has brought on himself and that needs to be resolved right now at the current point in time. The only people that can give teachers any sort of fair pay, can resolve the teacher shortage is the current government.

JOURNALIST: If they don’t know what you’re planning to do and then think okay, well, vote for you in a year’s time (inaudible)

CAR: Well Dominic Perrottet and Sarah Mitchell have responsibility for this. This is the current set of circumstances right now, 15,000 people have marched on Parliament House because of the current set of circumstances, the lack of fair pay, as well as the teacher shortage that they have let get worse and worse over the decade. They haven’t done this for a decade, teachers, and Dominic Perrottet, Sarah Mitchell, the ball is in their court.

JOURNALIST: What do teachers deserve today?

Well teachers deserve to be paid more than they currently are. They do not get fair pay. They are under more and more pressure than ever before. Dominic Perrottet can fix this. He can sit down with teachers, negotiate in good faith and actually listen to their concerns. He refuses to do this. It’s a silly situation where the government is responsible for resolving this. They keep telling teachers, paramedics, nurses, key workers there might be something in the budget. Just tell us what it is so that we can avoid this sort of disruption and we can actually get some solution for the key workers that got families through the hell of the last few years.

JOURNALIST: So can you at least commit the teachers will be paid better?

CAR: Well, Labor’s out there supporting the teachers right to be heard because the government will simply not listen to them. We believe they’re not paid enough. Teachers need to be paid more. That is the stark reality of the situation and parents know that it’s the case, As parents we saw in our own living rooms what teachers did for our children during the COVID lockdowns. They’re not paid enough. There are not enough of them the government has completely dropped the ball. And you know who suffers: our children. Standards are dropping through the floor and there’s no wonder because there’s just not enough teachers. They’re not coming into the system, and the government’s not valuing them so they stay in our classrooms in front of our kids.

JOURNALIST: This isn’t just about making money. This is about the entire public sector. Nurses, paramedics haven’t had a pay rise and have been told by the Premier repeatedly that it’s because he’s balancing being able to spend taxpayer dollars. Do you think pay rises for already high paid public servants (inaudible)? You know, what do you mean when he sort of (inaudible)

CAR: Imagine being a teacher working 60 hours plus a week out of the goodness of your heart to try and get young people prepared for the world and the premier keeps telling you that you have to suck it up because he has to balance a budget and then finding out that his own advisors get paid in excess of $300,000. What a kick in the guts.

JOURNALIST: Is there a difference though, between giving a pay rise to 55,000 teachers and 10 public servants?

CAR: Well, it just shows where this government’s priorities are. What they do is they give their own political staffers a huge increase. And they tell teachers, nurses, paramedics and key workers to suck it up.

JOURNALIST: The Premier did say yesterday wait to see what’s in the budget so wait to see what’s in the budget. If you want to strike after the budget, do that. As you said it is only a few weeks to the budget, What would the strike actually achieve and we all know the Premier is not going to be rushed into giving this number. I mean, there’s no one in Parliament today. The the Education Minister is in another part of the state, shouldn’t it have waited until we actually knew the figure and we could have a fair discussion about what is fair pay because Labor keeps saying pay teachers deserve fair pay, but you’re not putting a figure on it.

CAR: Well, I think teachers that are teaching our children and getting them ready for the world are desperate. They’ve marched on parliament. 15,000 teachers have marched on Parliament because they’re desperate. The government will not listen to them. Dominic ParaType keeps saying it’s only a few weeks with a budget and wait. That just goes to show how out of touch he is. We’ve just had an interest rate rise teachers and paramedics and nurses key workers and are facing the possibility of an interest rate rise every month. We keep learning that of that in the media. So to show to say to wait a few weeks that just goes to show that he’s not in the position that 1000s of 1000s of teachers are in where they have to make ends meet in a state where it’s almost impossible to do so.

JOURNALIST: Any pay rise would normally start at the beginning of the financial year. So the difference between announcing today and June 21 Actually in practicalities negligible.

CAR: Well, if there’s no difference in when it’s announced, then the premier should come out today and announce what the pay increase will be for teachers. It just goes to show he really will not listen, he doesn’t care about ordinary people and the people that are in front of our children, preparing them for a world that we need desperately for them to be better prepared for.

JOURNALIST: Where does the money come from where should the money come from? Given that we have deficits long into the future and a statement?

CAR: Well, the government seems to find money for all sorts of things. It blows out its infrastructure projects quite quite regularly. We also have to pay our teachers fairly, our nurses fairly, our paramedics and our key workers fairly. I think any parent across New South Wales would acknowledge that one of the biggest priorities of any government is ensuring that all of our public schools are well resourced, our teachers are respected and that they the best qualified teachersIn front of our children and crucially that there is enough of them.

JOURNALIST: Do you think parents are willing to pay higher taxes to defend those increases to fund increases for the rest of the public services?

CAR: Well, I think parents want a government that makes decisions, sure, really hard decisions, but decisions that are about priorities. And unfortunately, the the fact here that the government has presided over this teacher shortage crisis over a decade, and the fact that there is not enough teachers, they’re not paid enough. We’re seeing education standards slip as a result. This is this is a generational problem. The government has created they need to prioritize this, it is now urgent

JOURNALIST: Value is just one part of it, as you touched on before the union keeps bringing up this shortage. I mean, 15,000 teachers short in the workforce. I mentioned yesterday, to have any plans or policies if they get in, how are they going to pump those numbers up?

CAR: Well, we have been talking about the teacher shortage for some time. And then some. It is a crisis of the government’s own mapmaking it started in rural regional New South Wales, and then it’s crept into the rest of Sydney. We’ve got situations where some schools have to close classes on multiple days a week because they cannot find the teachers to teach our children. We certainly will be making this issue in the lead up to the election. We’ll be talking about it every day. What is a bigger priority for the government than hiring enough teachers? What needs to happen is the government needs to get more of our best and brightest students into university degrees. Get them out of university degrees into the teaching system. Once they are in there, they need to be treated fairly, not under crippling workloads with less and less pay, so that they stay, we need to value our teachers so that we have the best possible qualified teachers in front of our children, preparing them for the world. What is a bigger priority for the New South Wales Government in that election?

JOURNALIST: Inaudible

CAR: Labor will be standing up for all key workers and their right to be heard by this government. Right until the state election, because cost of living in New South Wales is just unbearable for families. Right across the state. 15,000 teachers out the front of Parliament. That’s teachers from right across the state, many of whom have never participated in industrial action before who have actually come out, even though they want to be teaching their children for the students in their classroom. They are desperate. Their emotion was on display today. They are desperate for their kids, because it’s impacting on our children in our New South Wales schools.

JOURNALIST: Just to be clear, the Teachers Federation push has been five to seven and a half percent pay rise. Does Labor support a pay rise of five to seven and a half percent for teachers?

CAR: Well, the government is the one that is responsible for resolving this particular pay dispute with the teachers. They haven’t even, Dominic Perrottet hasn’t even met with teachers in New South Wales about this issue. This complex set of issues, the issue of pay, the chronic issue of teacher shortage have been ignored by Dominic Perrottet and the Liberals and Sarah Mitchell as the Education Minister. It is on them to fix it. The ball is in their court. We cannot negotiate from opposition. It is up to the government to fix. They clearly aren’t listening because now we have 15,000 desperate teachers out the front desperate for the government to listen to them.

JOURNALIST: Labor wants to form government. Is there any pitch you can make those 15,000 people as to why they should vote for you, how would it be any different?

CAR: Well, Labor believes in fair pay for teachers, and that we will listen to the teachers each and every day because the government isn’t even bothering to listen to teachers in New South Wales. They won’t even sit down and listen to the concerns of teachers. They keep ignoring the teacher shortage crisis, which we will make an issue each and every day up to the election because it impacts on our children in classrooms right across the state.

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