Australian teachers protest against low wages, poor working conditions and staff shortages


Thousands of teachers from NSW public and Catholic schools have taken to the streets of Sydney as part of a joint strike to call on the government to raise pay and improve working conditions.

This is the third teachers’ strike in the last six months. For the first time in 25 years, the State Teachers’ Federation and the Independent Education Union representing Catholic school workers have joined forces.

The Federation of Teachers demands a 5-7% salary increase to keep up with the cost of living, rejecting the government’s proposal for a three percent salary increase.

An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 teachers marched down Macquarie Street in Sydney to the state Parliament on Thursday.

Teachers who took part in the rally said that additional measures are needed to solve the problem of overcrowded classrooms and staff shortages: almost 2,000 permanent teaching places were vacated last month.

Disappointed teachers

Peter Kitonga, 50, a law teacher at Sir Joseph Banks High School in Revesby in Western Sydney, said teachers’ salaries were «not keeping pace with inflation».

Kitonga, who has been a teacher for 13 years, told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that «it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that there is a qualified teacher in front of students». «You can get teachers to work by raising their salaries».

Debbie Jones, a Catholic primary school teacher from North Sydney with 40 years of experience, said that “teachers are just working hard.

«We’re all exhausted», she told AAP.

«They (teachers) will simply not remain. Pay the teachers as much as they cost, and they will come».

The government is «disappointed» by the strike

However, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was «disappointed» and «upset» by the union’s decision to go ahead with the strike despite the government’s efforts to engage with union bosses.

«We have stated that we will look for the possibility of a more generous wage increase in the public sector. That’s exactly what we did. That’s more than any other teacher in any other country can expect», she told Nine News on Thursday.

«I am disappointed on behalf of parents and children, more disorder is not what we need at the end of the semester».

Mitchell called the actions of unions across the state «politically motivated».

«This is not a coincidence, all this is happening at the same time, but we are a coalition government, we will continue to work in good faith. We want to achieve a good result. We want to be sure that our teachers will receive support, but the most important thing is that students can stay in classes».

Rail workers also continue to strike this week, despite a verbal commitment by Transport Minister David Elliott to spend $181 million to repair the train fleet. This means that passengers will have to wait five times longer than usual.

Sydney Trains CEO Matt Longland says the network is operating with reduced capacity, like on weekends.

The article was translated by Andrey Fomin, an employee of the APIR center.


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