NSW public school teachers will strike for 24 hours next week, renewing their campaign over pay, staff shortages and “unsustainable” workloads.
The NSW Teachers Federation executive voted on Tuesday to walk off the job on May 4, frustrated that negotiations with the government had stalled.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said it was disappointing after a disruptive two years for students and parents.
“[Parents] have a right to be frustrated,” he said.
“I’ve made it very clear that we will work through these issues, and we’ll get a good outcome on the other side.”
Public sector wage increases in the past 10 years had outstripped the private sector, and increases of 2.5 per cent offered by the NSW government were higher than any other state, he said.
Cost of living pressures and inflation were causing real challenges, but the situation was not unique to NSW.
Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said after a strike in December, the union had suspended action to negotiate in good faith.
“We provided the Perrottet government with a singular opportunity to sit down with us and negotiate – genuinely negotiate – and reach a mutual agreement in order to address the crippling teacher shortage and its underlying causes: Uncompetitive pay and crippling workload,” Mr Gavrielatos said.
“The Perrottet government refused to embrace that opportunity.”
The NSW government has capped public sector wage increases at 2.5 per cent, while inflation is running at about 3.5 per cent.
“This would constitute a cut to teachers’ real income,” Mr Gavrielatos said.
“If we don’t pay teachers what they are worth, we won’t get the teachers we need.
“The profession is now left with no alternative but to act in the interest of our students and our profession, and take industrial action.”
The union wants a pay rise of between 5 and 7.5 per cent, as well as two extra hours of planning time.
The union also voted to ban the implementation of new government policies or initiatives, and said members would walk out if state government MPs visited schools.
Mr Gavrielatos said there were 2383 permanent teacher vacancies across 1251 NSW schools in February.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns called on Mr Perrottet to sit down and speak to teacher representatives.
As the cost of petrol, fresh food, meat and housing continued to rise, the government remained intent on keeping wages low.
“Many people – particularly those who are trying to make ends meet – are simply not able to cover their mortgage, get their kids through school or meet the fundamentals of a busy life in NSW,” Mr Minns said.
If the government intended on raising the wage cap in the June budget, industrial action could be averted by explaining it to the workforce now, he said.
“If we can avoid industrial action between now when the budget comes down, that’s good news for the families of NSW.”
A poll of 10,000 NSW teachers released on Tuesday found 73 per cent said their workload was unmanageable and 70 per cent were reconsidering their position due to the workload.