Over 300 people attended a NSW Teachers Federation rally in Penrith last Tuesday to protest against teacher shortages and inadequate pay as part of the statewide More Than Thanks campaign.
The Federation pledged to resume industrial action due to the NSW Government’s failure to negotiate a pay increase directly with the union, instead insisting that negotiations take place in the Industrial Relations Commission.
The main concerns of the Federation are the uncompetitive salaries offered to teachers and excessive workloads that deter many high school graduates from pursuing a career in teaching.
The rally’s keynote speakers were Education Shadow Minister and Labor member for Londonderry Prue Car, and NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos.
Gavrielatos said there were over 1000 teacher vacancies in Western Sydney alone and over 2300 statewide, indicating that teacher recruitment and retention has become a critical issue in public education.
He also said that according to the government’s own projections, another 10,000 teachers will be needed in NSW over the next 15 years.
“Our children’s right to education is at risk,” said Gavrielatos.
“The failure of the government to take this opportunity to negotiate directly with teachers is a failure of the children of this state.”
The More Than Thanks campaign gained statewide attention on 7 December last year when thousands of teachers went on the first mass strike in nearly ten years.
After the strike, the Federation pledged to stop industrial action during term one of the 2022 school year to allow the government time to enter direct negotiations with the union.
However, the government’s failure to agree to terms with the union by 19 March has led the Federation to call for resumed industrial action in term two.
It is currently unclear whether the union will strike again as part of its tactics to get a favourable pay increase. But with twelve months until what is expected to be a tight state election, unrest among teachers and others in the public service is troubling for the government.
Speaking at the rally, Car said that NSW Labor were committed to a pay rise for teachers should they be elected in March 2023 and that it would form a key part of their election platform.
“Parents can now see the strain that teachers are being put under answering questions during their breaks, on the weekends and on holidays,” she said.
The rally concluded with photos outside the office of the Liberal member for Penrith and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres, who declined to attend the rally, as did all sitting government MPs.