22 June 2022

NSW Budget handed down as educators vote for unprecedented strike action

| Claire Fenwicke
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NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos and IEU NSW/ACT president Mark Northam (centre) announced the joint strike action will take place 30 June

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos and IEU NSW/ACT president Mark Northam (centre) announced the joint strike action will take place on 30 June. Photo: Supplied.

Health, transport, education and community safety for the South East and Tablelands have all received boosts in the 2022-23 NSW State Budget.

Big ticket items included in the Budget for the region were $391.3 million for the implementation of the Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct, $60 million for the Eurobodalla Regional Hospital Development and $24.2 million to continue planning and construction of the Barton Highway duplication.

Treasurer Matt Kean submitted the documents to Parliament (Tuesday, 21 June), saying the government was committed to building a “better, brighter future” for everyone in NSW.

“Good economic management is about more than merely leaving the finances in good shape,” he said.

“It is also about investing today, so that we may enjoy the returns of a more prosperous tomorrow.”

While the Budget estimated an $11.3 billion deficit for 2022-23, Mr Kean said it was projected to be back in the black by 2024-25.

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One significant announcement was around housing.

First home buyers would now be given the choice of paying an annual property tax instead of stamp duty, which Mr Kean said would save people years of waiting to achieve home ownership.

“Our belief in the importance of these measures is grounded in an understanding that when you own your own home, you own a stake in the future of our country,” he said.

Legislation for the property tax option would be introduced later this year. If it passed, it would be available from 16 January, 2023 for properties worth up to $1.5 million.

Under the initiative, first home buyers who opted into the scheme would pay an annual $400 property tax, plus 0.3 per cent of the land value of the property.

Another big investment was towards growing women’s participation in the workforce.

“The transformational opportunity to increase women’s workforce participation is affordable and accessible childcare,” Mr Kean said.

“Many Australians cannot access childcare and too many women only take home about 30 cents in each dollar they earn after taking into account the tax they pay, the loss of family tax benefits and the costs of childcare.

“A family’s wealth should not determine the wealth of their child’s opportunity.”

But not everybody was pleased with what came out of the Budget.

Unions from health, education and community sectors rallied outside State Parliament, angry over the three per cent pay increase for the public sector.

As a result, both the NSW Teachers Federation and Independent Education Union (IEU) NSW/ACT unanimously voted for a joint 24-hour strike.

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NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said the current teacher shortage crisis was 10 years in the making and down to the failings of the government.

“Every single day, hundreds and hundreds of classes have been disrupted, thousands of students are missing out on valuable lessons and teachers and principals are being burdened with workloads and the stress associated with teacher shortages,” he said.

“What we’ve got from this government is denial, spin, gimmickry – anything but dealing with this crisis.

“Acting on uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads is the only way to stop more teachers leaving and attract the people into the profession we need to fix the shortages.”

It’s been more than 25 years since joint action between the two unions has taken place.

“Never before has the teaching service been more angry, and never before has a teaching service been more united,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

IEU NSW/ACT president Mark Northam described the announcement as a “special moment in history”.

“There are shortages right across the board. Northern Sydney is not remote, Wanniassa in Canberra is not remote, but today they can’t get teachers,” he said.

“Teaching and learning in NSW and ACT Catholic systemic schools is being compromised, it’s simply not working.”

Mr Northam said there simply weren’t enough teachers to drive the change the NSW Government wanted to see.

“What we want to do is push back and send a message to Catholic employers and the State Government: we need to get in a room and we need to fix this up,” he said.

“The sharply rising cost of living, lack of real wages growth, ever-increasing workloads and the pandemic have caused crippling staff shortages in Catholic schools – our members are exhausted and burnt out. The profession is at breaking point.”

Members of both unions voted to rally in Macquarie Street, Sydney, on Thursday 30 June, as well as in yet-to-be-determined locations across regional NSW and the ACT.

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