A Massive 50,000 Public Transport And Teaching Staff Went On Strike Against The NSW Government

Trains, buses, and schools were impacted by the enormous day of industrial action, as workers fight for better pay and working conditions.

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An estimated 50,000 public transport and education staff have gone on strike in NSW to protest against working conditions in a massive union turnout.

Schools, buses, and trains ground to a halt on Tuesday as part of a week-long industrial action calling on the NSW Government to address pay freezes, special COVID workplace compensation overhauls, and staff shortages.

“It’s one of the largest strike days in recent memory,” said Unions NSW. “But they’re not just striking for their job security and standard of living, but for all of us. For better schools and better public transport services.”

New modelling from progressive policy researchers The McKell Institute found that not increasing wages above inflation would reduce economic activity in the education industry $347 million per year, with individual teachers facing a wage cut of $511 annually. It’s a grimmer situation for Sydney Trains employees, who the Institute predicts will cop a wage cut of around $930 on average per week, reducing economic activity in NSW by $80.1 million.

Public Transport

The strikes began at the start of the week, with over 1000 bus drivers in Sydney’s inner west walking off the job to incite the NSW Government to intervene in stalled negotiations with the city’s metro bus network operator Transit Systems. The Transport Workers Union said privatised bus drivers earn more than their public counterparts despite doing the same job.

On Tuesday, drivers on South West Sydney routes joined in, alongside train drivers. Three-quarters of the railway network were affected with employees boycotting foreign-made trains, with six train lines running at quarter capacity and two lines stopping completely. In addition to pay disputes and privitisation fears, the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union NSW Branch are also pushing for CCTV not to replace guards on train platforms as currently proposed, and continued hygiene safety measures amid the pandemic.

“We’ve been fighting for months, and we’ll continue to fight until we can stand here and tell you our network is safe,” a union representative said on Tuesday.

Public Schools

At the same time, NSW teachers and principals also went on a one-day strike for the first time in a decade in response to staff shortages, excessive workloads, and again in a common theme, pay. The state currently has the least teachers per students in Australia, with classroom teachers working 55 hours per week on average, according to Unions NSW.

The workforce is pushing back against the Perrottet Government’s 2.5 percent public sector wage cap — less than the inflation rate — to at least 5 to 7.5 percent pay increase per year.

“All options have been exhausted in negotiations with the NSW Department of Education,” casual teacher Dan Hogan wrote in Overland. “The Department should be grateful that we’re doing a one-day strike in Week 10 of Term 4, and not working to rule instead.”

“The Department’s decade-long austerity project has driven teachers out of the profession em masse, acted as a deterrent to ward off new talent, and created a teacher shortage.”

Predictably, State Education Minister Sarah Mitchell waved off their concerns, saying she was “disappointed” and that kids and parents have done it tough during COVID already.

“Working parents know that teachers are not paid fairly,” Labor Education spokesperson Prue Car retaliated. “They are not paid enough. Their wages have not kept up with growth.”