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 are calling on the government to offer them more than a three per cent pay rise.
The NSW Teachers Federation is asking for a pay rise of between five and seven 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, representing 85,000 teachers.
The strike is expected to have affected about a million families statewide, 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 told AAP.
“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 is disappointed by the decision to strike and says it is politically motivated.
Most schools will have some minimal supervision, but a percentage of schools will be closed for the day.
Ms Mitchell defended the government’s public sector wages policy, calling it the most generous in the country.