NSW commuters have faced a day of chaos today, as train and bus workers go on strike on the same day the state’s public school teachers walk off the job.
First teachers’ strike in a decade:
For the next 24 hours, NSW public school teachers will be on strike in an act of defiance against the state government’s offer of a 2.5 percent a year pay rise.
From posts seen by The Greek Herald on social media today, it appears thousands of teachers have turned out at NSW Parliament this morning to protest.
The President of the NSW Teachers Federation, Angelo Gavrielatos, gave an address at the rally, saying: “we will always protect our students, we will not tolerate an attack on the profession…”
“Rather than take action to address the teacher shortage, the government and department decided to take legal action. We will not be deterred,” Mr Gavrielatos continued.
Teachers want a five percent pay rise, plus another 2.5 percent for experience, which is above the government’s legislated 2.5 percent public sector wage cap.
They point to a “statewide staffing crisis” and an escalating workload as evidence that the pay is too low.
In response, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has launched a blistering attack on the Federation today, accusing it of being a protection racket that fights transparency.
“[Teachers] deserve better representation than that of a union hell-bent on hanging students out to dry for political purposes,” Ms Mitchell told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr Gavrielatos said the attack was “unwarranted and without foundation” and that it will “only deepen the profession’s resentment.”
Bus and train strikes:
Major disruptions to rail services have also been felt across NSW today as train and bus drivers take industrial action in a dispute over privatisation and safety conditions.
The Rail Tram and Bus Union has warned that travellers should expect lengthy delays, as its members refuse to operate the foreign-made trains that make up 75 percent of the state’s fleet.
Buses are also out of action in Sydney’s south-west between Parramatta, Liverpool and Bonnyrigg, as 300 drivers strike over a pay and conditions dispute with Transit Systems, their employer after privatisation.
“We know that actions like this are an inconvenience to commuters, but the ball is in the court of management and the government,” the Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW secretary, Alex Claassens, said.
“They can stop this action by simply agreeing to workers’ basic asks around safety, hygiene and privatisation.”
Unions are warning of a “summer of chaos” ahead, with more industrial action planned.