UPDATED

NSW Teachers Federation strike despite order from Industrial Relations Commission

Taking action: St George Teachers' Federation members stand up. Picture: Supplied
Taking action: St George Teachers' Federation members stand up. Picture: Supplied

UPDATED

The NSW Department of Education has assured school communities that it is working to minimise the effects of a teacher strike on students' learning and well-being, while also supporting essential workers.

The majority of schools across the state will remain open with supervision for students, and parents have been informed where schools will not be open. Those students will have access to learning from home material.

Education Secretary Georgina Harrisson said she understood the frustration of families and the industrial action capped off a difficult year for many parents and carers.

"I want to reassure parents that we are doing all we can to ensure learning continues without disruption - especially given the challenges students, teachers and families have experienced this year," Ms Harrisson said.

"The department has called on the Federation and its members to comply with the Industrial Relations Commission's (IRC) order and not strike."

"The Department is still negotiating with the Federation on their claims and the place for this is in the IRC.

"The Federation needs to come back to the table and engage in good faith with the negotiating process.

"We are preparing to manage any future challenges of teacher supply, which is why we commissioned research to understand the issue and developed a strategy to address it.

"We recognise the tremendous work teachers have done during the pandemic and want to make sure they do not miss out on money in hand by delivering them a pay raise in the first week of January ahead of whatever the IRC decides in May."

EARLIER

NSW public school teachers and principals will strike on December 7 despite orders from the Industrial Relations Commission to abandon the stop-work action.

The NSW Teachers Federation is on a mission to address its concerns over what they deem are unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive salaries, which members say contributes to growing shortages of teachers.

Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said the Federation's Council voted unanimously for the 24 hour stoppage at a meeting in Sydney last week.

"This will be the first 24 hour stoppage in a decade and it reflects the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in," Mr Gavrielatos said.

"Principals and teachers don't take this decision lightly. Every year teachers have been asked to do more and every year their salary has fallen compared to other profession."

An increase in preparation time of two hours a week is also sought to enable teachers more time for lesson planning and collaboration with their colleagues.

Mr Gavrielatos said the time teachers have for planning and preparation outside the classroom had not increased since the 1980s for primary teachers and the 1950s for secondary teachers.

A statewide advertising campaign will also be stepped up with TV, radio and print advertisements.

St George Teachers Association Vice President, Glenn Hokin, said teachers had resolved to take action to "secure the educational outcomes that our students deserve."

"Such a crisis requires an immediate policy reset to ensure that every student is able to reach their potential," he said.

"Our schools in St George regularly report the inability to find enough casual teachers to cover the classes for absent teachers. Schools across St George report having teachers teach outside their areas of expertise due to the shortage.

"This has manifested in the form of a shortage of casual teachers and specialised teachers such as school counsellors. It has also seen early career teachers resign.

"It is time to give teachers more than thanks."

In line with the recommendations of the independent Gallop inquiry, teachers and principals are seeking a salary increase of between five to 7.5 per cent a year.

The current Teachers' Award expires on December 31.

The Industrial Relations Commission order extends to any other form of industrial action relating to the federation's current wage claims.

The department states it is negotiating a new award with the federation, with the assistance of the commission.

"We have been unable to reach agreement on a final award and the matter will be arbitrated by a Full Bench of the Commission, scheduled for May 2022," the department stated.

Rather than wait until the outcome of the arbitration in May, the department has made an application for an interim award to deliver a 2.5 per cent salary increase for teachers and related employees as soon as the current award expires.

"This is the maximum amount allowed per annum under the Industrial Relations Act," the department stated. "It would be effective from the first full pay period on or after January 1, 2022, ensuring teachers and related employees don't miss out.

"The department is strongly encouraging the federation and its members to comply with the commission's orders.

The Department of Education has reassured families that it is doing all it can to ensure teaching and learning continues without disruption - especially given the difficulties and challenges students, parents and families have experienced during the course of this year.

"But we are also working to make sure our students and their families are supported should industrial action proceed," it stated.

"We will keep you updated as developments come to hand, both on our website and social channels. Principals will also be in contact about plans for your local school."

This story Families supported as teachers strike first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.