Strikes in New South Wales: Teachers, railway workers and bus drivers launch major collective action

A huge group of teachers march through Sydney to demand higher wages as striking train and bus drivers plunge the city into chaos.

NSW public school teachers march through central Sydney to demand higher wages and improved conditions in their first strike in 10 years.

Staff left work for 24 hours on Tuesday to protest a 2.5% salary cap in place for a decade, as well as what the union warns of a serious shortage of teachers statewide.

Up to 400 schools were closed on Tuesday as teachers gathered in Hyde Park in Sydney to march towards the New South Wales Parliament.

Aerial footage captured from a news helicopter just after 10:15 a.m. showed a large crowd blocking Macquarie Street in both directions as the group made their way towards Parliament.

Many of the crowd are dressed in red and blue as they march under the banner of #MoreThanThanks to demand higher wages.

Transport workers have also wreaked havoc across the state as they strike over their own ongoing wage dispute with the state government.

Disruptions to rail services are expected statewide throughout Tuesday, as train conductors lead industrial action.

Members of the Union of Railways, Tramways and Buses (RBTU) will refuse to drive overseas-made trains on Tuesday, which are used on 75 percent of the state’s rail network.

Union members are calling for a pay rise of more than 2.5 percent and have also expressed concerns about train safety.

The strike will add to chaos across the city, with reduced and delayed services, longer travel times, and buses replacing trains on some routes.

The 24 hour strike began at midnight.

“Bus drivers leaving work today have spent the last year exposing themselves to Covid-19 to serve the public, as have railway workers and teachers,” said NSW union secretary Mark Morey.

“Now, as inflation rages, they are being rewarded with lower wages and increased workloads. “

Commuters are told to plan ahead and allow longer travel times.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said the number of vacant tenured teacher positions rose to more than 3,000 by mid-November.

Even excluding 1,037 new positions, there were 2001 vacancies – more than double the 995 recorded in June.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell blasted the strike and attacked the union.

She said the industrial action was a “real disservice” to hardworking teachers who “want to do what is right” for the students.

“Our children have already had a rough year, our parents have been disturbed by Covid, we have to be in the classroom and I am so frustrated that the union took this response today, it is incredibly frustrating,” said she told the Today show. .

“We have days of the school year left, every day of the school year counts.”

Ms Mitchell said the school closures were “incredibly disruptive”.

“For parents who need to be at work today, it’s really hard for them,” she said.

Striking teachers and principals are calling for a salary increase of 5 to 7.5 percent per year to recognize the increase in skills and expertise.

Mr Gavrielatos said the state government was making no effort to deal with the unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive salaries.

“Teachers and principals from Inner West to the Far West tell us they just can’t find the full-time and casual teachers they need,” he said.

“In western and southwestern Sydney, where student needs are greatest, vacancy rates are also highest.

“The NSW government is concerned that children are missing a day, but we are concerned that children are missing every day because there are simply not enough teachers . “

The education ministry said most schools would remain open on Tuesday, with supervision available to students.

If the state government did not pay teachers “what they are worth” they would not get the teachers they need, Gavrielatos warned.

“The workload for teachers is unmanageable and the 10-year government salary cap means the salary they earn does not reflect the skills or responsibilities they have,” he said.

“Sadly, the only action the NSW government is prepared to take is legal action to try to stop teachers and principals from protesting wages and workload.”

The last time NSW teachers staged a mass walkout was in 2011, and they were joined by nurses, firefighters and police.

The action was ruled illegal by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and the teachers’ union was fined $ 6,000.

No trains will run on the T5 Cumberland line on Tuesday and there will be heavily reduced services and more stops on T1 North Shore and Western, T2 Inner West and Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra, T7 Olympic Park, T8 Airport and South lines.

Transport for NSW has organized bus replacement services between Lidcombe and Bankstown and between Wollongong and Kiama, and Wollongong and Port Kembla.

Regional trains will run on a weekend schedule, but there are no changes to the Hunter Line, Southern Highlands Line, and rail services between Kiama and Nowra.

Buses will also be out of service between Parramatta, Liverpool and Bonnyrigg in the city’s southwest as 300 drivers continue to strike. It comes after 1,200 drivers stopped working for 24 hours in Sydney’s central west on Monday.

The railway workers are expected to take new measures on Tuesday, December 14.

Unions warn of a “summer of chaos” with more industrial action planned across New South Wales in the coming months.

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