Thousands of NSW public and Catholic schools have rallied in Sydney’s CBD demanding better wages and working conditions.
Dressed in red shirts emblazoned with the text “More than Thanks”, teachers called on the government to offer them more than a 3 per cent pay rise.
The NSW Teachers Federation wants a pay rise of 5-7 per cent.
Many protesters held up satirical placards poking fun at inflation, such as “Thanks won’t buy lettuce”, to make the point that living costs have soared.
It is the third strike in six months called by the NSW Teachers Federation and Independent Education Union NSW/ACT, who together represent 85,000 teachers.
The strike was expected to have affected about a million families across NSW and the ACT, just a day before a two-week school break.
Peter Kitonga, 50, a legal studies teacher at Sir Joseph Banks High School in Revesby in western Sydney, said he was fed up with deteriorating working conditions.
“I have been working as a public school teacher for 13 years and our salaries have not kept up with inflation,” he said.
“It’s the duty of the government to ensure that students have a qualified teacher in front of them. You can bring teachers on board by giving them better pay.”
It was the first time in more than 25 years that both unions have joined forces to strike for 24 hours.
“We have a crisis in the form of a teacher shortage, a crisis that is the government’s own making,” NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said.
“The government has known for years the causes of this crisis: uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads.”
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell was disappointed by the decision to strike and said it was politically motivated.
Most schools had some minimal supervision on Thursday, but some had to close for the day.
Ms Mitchell defended the Perrottet government’s public sector wages policy, calling it the most generous in the country.
Meanwhile, the rail union said industrial action would continue this week, despite a verbal commitment from Transport Minister David Elliott to spend $264 million on safety modifications of a Korean-made fleet.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been locked in a long-running stoush with the government over the modifications. Negotiations continued on Thursday.
Sydney Trains CEO Matt Longland said the network was operating at reduced capacity, resembling a weekend timetable.
He advised commuters to avoid train travel or allow extra time because services would be less frequent and carriages more crowded.
“Normally, in the peak period customers wait one or two, maybe three minutes for a train,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Thursday.
“This morning it will be closer to 10, maybe 15 minutes.”