“They just don’t get it”: insulting teacher pay offer from the NSW Government

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The NSW Government must reconsider the insulting pay offer made to NSW Government teachers this week.

Pay negotiations with the government had been underway since late April this year and, at a meeting with the NSW Education Minister Prue Car and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey, a one-year agreement was reached on 31 May.

It was an agreement that would have seen starting salaries for graduate teachers lifted by 12 per cent, while top-paid teacher salaries would have experienced an 8 per cent rise from October.

Instead, on Wednesday, 2 August, the Minns’ Government offered a four-year agreement that would include a 2.5 per cent cap from the second year – a decision New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) president Angelo Gavrielatos called “an act of betrayal”.

“Never before has a government walked away from a deal in the way that we are experiencing now. Our message is very simple; honour the agreement,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

Read more: Don’t risk losing teachers because of payroll stress

When the Independent Education Union (IEU) and the NSWTF took to the streets in June 2022 behind a ‘Teachers United’ banner, it was a joint show of solidarity that reflected a profession in crisis.

But despite thousands of teachers and support staff rallying outside NSW Parliament to make their voices heard, in the hope that teacher salaries and conditions would be reset, this week’s “insulting” pay offer directly impacts IEU teacher members in Catholic systemic schools across NSW. Even though Catholic employers are not bound by NSW Government decisions for government school teachers, they’ve long imposed the same on their own teachers.

The IEU stands with the NSWTF as they call out the NSW Government for revoking the previously negotiated agreement.

Tina Ruello, President of the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch, expressed disappointment with the offer.

“We’ve been on the streets. We’ve been in NSW Parliament. We thought the Minns’ Government was listening. It seems they weren’t,”  Ms Ruello said in a media release.

The IEUA NSW/ACT Branch represents more than 32,000 teachers, principals and support staff in Catholic and independent schools, early childhood centres and post-secondary colleges.

“The notion that you can rebuild a profession without the foundations being securely in place is illogical. Attracting and retaining the existing workforce in NSW hinges on achieving pay outcomes which are comparable to the outcomes in ACT and QLD. This offer is not that,” said Ms Ruello.

“Teacher vacancy statistics across NSW tell the story. Schools have been splitting, sharing, and supervising multiple classes, and education and learning outcomes have been weakened as a result.”

The IEU Executive is meeting on Friday 4 August and will consider a response by IEU members.

The IEU Executive will, Mark Northam, Secretary of the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch, told EducationDaily, “devote considerable time and attention to the offer that the NSW Government has put forward for state school teachers”.

“School communities across NSW deserve better. Parents and teachers were anticipating a significant change in direction from the Minns’ Government, but the latest offer falls short. IEU members and the communities they serve will stand strong and demand a better offer,” Mr Northam says.

“Schools have been running on goodwill. That goodwill has now expired. Teaching is the bedrock of all professions,” he says. “The NSW Government must get this right.”

The return to a 2.5 per cent cap, Mr Northam told EducationDaily, will be rejected, “as it is a regression to the past which has absolutely no attraction for Catholic systemic teachers and support staff”.

“It is simply unreasonable,” he says.

The way forward, according to Mr Northam,  is for the NSW Government to “reconfigure and revisit the offer”.

“The IEU would advise that an uplift in salaries in the 2023 school year is absolutely essential, and further, that the punitive cap suggested in today’s release must be expunged,” he told EducationDaily.

Although there is clearly more work to do to attract and retain teachers in NSW, Mr Northam says, “let’s do this one step at a time”.

“The basic building blocks of a successful teaching force rest upon salaries and conditions. If we get the salaries right, and undertake a serious examination of teacher workload matters, we can slowly but surely rebuild the profession.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live