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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Paige Busher

Teachers skip school to strike for pay rise

Thousands of Hunter teachers skipped school on Wednesday, joining others across the state calling for "more than thanks."

Primary school, high school and early education teachers filled Town Hall before marching in Civic Park in a bid to increase their pay and reduce their workload.

NSW Teachers Federation regional organiser Jack Galvin-Waight said inadequate teacher pay was harming students across the Hunter, which the union will continue to protest until their demands are heard.

"Teachers across the Hunter have turned up in thousands to send a really strong message to the Perrottet government that our teachers and our students deserve so much more," he said.

"Unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive salaries are leading to crippling shortages across the state, but particularly in the Hunter which is not fair on our students if there is not a qualified teacher in the classroom.

"The situation is really bad in the Hunter. Newcastle is one of the most desirable areas to teach in the state, yet there is still teacher shortages in Newcastle. The further you go out the Hunter to Maitland and particularly in the Upper Hunter it is dire."

'Frustrating and disappointing'

Teachers are calling for two hours of extra planning time and a pay rise between five and 7.5 per cent, but public sector pay increases have been capped at 2.5 per cent per annum for over a decade.

Public schools remained open with minimal supervision during the 24 hour industrial action, but parents were urged to keep children at home.

Education minister Sarah Mitchell said the strike's disruption to parents and students was "frustrating and disappointing" after NSW premier Dominic Perrottet said he would look to lift the 2.5 per cent wage cap increase for public sector workers in the June budget.

There are currently 114 permanent vacancies across public schools in the Hunter, and over 2300 across the state.

'Teachers deserve both a life and a career'

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said 70 per cent of NSW teachers are reconsidering their position due to an unmanageable workload, and 90 per cent of teachers say their pay does not reflect their expertise and responsibilities.

"The government has ignored this because the bottom line is they want you to work 60 hours or more a week for less money," he said.

"On average teachers are working 60 hours a week, doing admin at night and on weekends when they should be with their families. They spend more time documenting the lesson than preparing the lessons.

"Teachers deserve both a life and a career."

Teachers won't be paid

Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes was among those marching in Civic Park.

"We all know that the future of our great city, our great nation and our state is in the hands of teachers and they deserve the respect that they should be given," she said.

"With what teachers have done for our nation and caring for our children over the last two years of this global pandemic, a pay rise of 2.04 per cent is a kick in the teeth for the profession. It is only fair the work they do to educate our future is compensated fairly."

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education said the action was deemed "unauthorised absence" with staff going unpaid.

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