The first major teachers’ strike in NSW for ten years is set to go ahead on 7 December. All indications are that it will be well supported among the Teachers Federation’s 60,000 plus members and bring widespread stoppage to schools across the state. 

Support for the strike is overwhelming among teachers and there is a mood that now is the time to fight. The enthusiasm for the strike reflects the growing anger teachers feel about a range of issues, especially increasing workloads and stagnant pay. 

The strike will take place after ten years in which teachers’ pay rises have been capped at a maximum of 2.5 percent per year—meaning that wages have stood still since 2011. 

It comes after the Gallup enquiry, commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation earlier this year, reported that there is a crisis in teacher numbers and morale that will only get worse unless it is arrested by more time for preparation and immediate action to stop the growing gap between teachers’ pay and that of other graduate professions.

It also comes after nearly two years in which teachers have had to adjust rapidly to online learning due to COVID outbreaks—and then be sent back into unsafe schools after being told that opening windows and switching on fans is good enough ventilation. 

One teacher in western Sydney told Red Flag that she is sick of the workload “forcing us to choose between the job we love and our families”, a reflection of the Gallup inquiry findings that teachers work 55 hours a week on average. She added, “We need fairer conditions and wages that reflect the consistent hard work and commitment we put into the job to support our students”.

Many teachers are fed up with the government ignoring the growing teacher shortage crisis hitting schools across the state, leading to more cover lessons and merged classes. 

Bullish statements from Premier Dominic Perrottet and Education Minister Sarah Mitchell indicate that there is a fight on our hands. If we are to win reduced hours and the Gallup recommended pay increase of between 10 and 15 percent, we will need further sustained strike action in the new year. 

“This will be the first strike in a decade and, quite frankly, it should be the first of many until the department recognises that the system is broken”, a teacher in Sydney’s north told Red Flag.

“How dare Sarah Mitchell accuse us of planning to ‘abandon our students’ by striking for one day when it is government inaction that is forcing teachers to leave the profession in droves. This is not a case of cynical teachers throwing their toys out of the cot because they cannot get a pay rise. We should strike for as many times as that message is clearly understood.”