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NSW teachers walk away, trains interrupted

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

A historic 24 strike by NSW public and Catholic teachers results from the state government’s failure to address chronic teacher shortages, unions say.

The action by 85,000 public and Catholic teachers on Thursday will be the third strike in six months and is expected to affect about a million families just one day before two weeks of vacation.

Thousands of teachers are expected to descend on Sydney’s CBD after the budget showed no more than a 3.5 percent pay rise.

It marks the first time in more than 25 years that the NSW Teachers Federation and Independent Education Union NSW/ACT have joined forces to stage a 24-hour strike in a show of energy that will close schools.NSW teachers walk away, trains interrupted

“We have a crisis in the form of a teacher shortage, a crisis that the government has created itself,” federation president Angelo Gavrielatos told reporters on Wednesday.

“The government has known for years the causes of this crisis: uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads,” he said.

“Students have been denied their learning opportunities and their future.”

Mr. Gavrielatos urged the government to keep teachers in the stretched sector by raising wages by about seven percent to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living in recent months.

“Teacher salaries have fallen over the past 30 years relative to other professions…our claim is clear based on an independent study…which recommends an increase of five to 7.5 percent per year,” he said.

He also noted that 1906 teaching job openings statewide belied structural problems and said the shortage would only worsen over the next decade.

“Catholic workers are short of 4,000 teachers, and we will need 11,000 more teachers by the end of the decade – 15,000 more teachers are needed, and the government knows this based on its own internal research,” he said.

The strike comes amid a busy week that has rocked the state with delayed trains as workers step up demands for safety and pay rises.

The Rail, Tram, and Bus Union will meet with the NSW government on Wednesday to discuss a new Korean-built intercity train fleet.

The most recent dispute was sparked by a government offer to pay workers up to $18,000 to operate the fleet before any safety changes are made.

The NSW union secretary, Alex Claassens, has accused the government of playing political games, calling it a bribe.

The railway workers started four days of union action on Tuesday.

Transport for NSW has warned that a union ban on foreign-owned trains on Friday would cut Sydney Trains services by 70 percent during peak periods, and commuters could expect delays and canceled services.

There will be significant disruptions to Sydney and NSW train routes, including reduced services to the Central Coast, Newcastle, Hunter, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, and South Coast on Thursday and Friday.

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet described the union action on Tuesday as disappointing, saying the national rail safety regulator had advised the NSW government that the new intercity trains were safe.

Meanwhile, hundreds of nurses voted Tuesday to continue with union action, rejecting the government’s offer to get a three percent pay increase.

Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said members will now seek a seven percent pay increase.

The prime minister said he supported the public sector’s three percent wage offer to health workers, calling continued industrial action politically motivated.

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