Some 18,000 teachers and support staff across 540 Catholic diocesan schools have gone on strike in a bid to improve pay, work-life balance and staff shortages.
There were 10 rallies and marches across NSW and the ACT on Friday, May 27, 2022 in the first full-day stoppage since 2004.
The biggest gathering was in Sydney, where protesters gathered at Town Hall and marched through city streets to Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
Further north in the state's Hunter region, protesters chanted songs as they rallied at Wickham Park in Newcastle before marching right up to the doorstep of the Catholic Schools Office, where many sympathetic workers came out to join the protest.
Meanwhile in Canberra, teachers and support staff rallied indoors, where they gave speeches and sang songs to draw attention to their cause.
The mood at Wollongong's MacCabe Park, south of Sydney, in NSW's Illawarra, was mostly jubilant as those gathered cheered on the speakers and sang songs before marching to the Catholic Education office, where they chanted "hear our voice" to the beat of a drum.
Local teachers and support staff braved the foggy, sub-10-degree weather, to draw attention to the fact they're underpaid and overworked in Bathurst in the state's Central West.
In nearby Dubbo, roughly 30 teachers from the Orana region marched through the Dubbo central business district stopping outside Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders' office before finishing at the local Catholic Education Office.
Other rallies and marches were also held in Lennox Head, Port Macquarie, Tamworth in the state's north and Wagga Wagga in the Riverina.
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IEU NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam said teachers and support staff were "dedicated professionals who rarely take industrial action".
"But uncompetitive salaries, unsustainable workloads and crippling staff shortages have pushed them beyond their limits."
The IEU, which represents 32,000 teachers and support staff throughout NSW and the ACT, is awaiting the handing down of the NSW Budget on June 21 to see if the pay cap will increase.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has previously hinted the government will lift its 2.5 per cent pay cap, which has been place since 2011.
This pay cap applies to NSW public servants, including government school teachers.
While Catholic employers are not legally bound by it, they have a long tradition of taking their cue from it.
One Catholic diocese this week offered an increase to school staff that would exceed the pay cap.
"But this offer doesn't come close to our claim," Mr Northam said.
"We call on all 11 dioceses to make a realistic pay offer to teachers to meet our claim of a 10 per cent to 15 per cent increase over two years. No other Catholic employer among the 11 dioceses has matched this move."
The IEU NSW/ACT five key claims are:
- Pay teachers what they're worth (an increase of 10 per cent to 15 per cent over two years)
- Give support staff a fair deal (pay parity with colleagues in public sector schools)
- Let teachers teach - cut paperwork
- Allow time to plan (two more hours release from face-to-face teaching per week)
- End staff shortages.