Public school teachers across NSW have accused the government of an “act of betrayal,” over the sudden withdrawal of a finalised pay agreement.
In a furious spray, NSW Teacher’s Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said the union had attempted to engage in “good faith bargaining,” claiming an agreement had been made with the Education and Early Learning Minister Prue Car and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey since May 31.
In response to the reneging last Friday, Mr Gavrielatos said the union will start a “program of political action targeting every single member of the government,” encouraging the government to “come to its senses”.
He said the revolt could lead to an “escalation of action in September,” if the issue remained unresolved.
“We struck a deal not once, but twice,” he said.
“This is unprecedented in my decades of experience. Never before has a government walked away from a deal in the way that we are experiencing now.”
While Mr Gavrielatos didn’t go into the full details of the established agreement, he said it would have resulted in “significant changes” to teacher salary structures, which would have made entry-level teachers the highest paid in Australia.
He also took particular offence to a counter offer the government made on Wednesday night, which included an initial 4 per cent boost, followed by annual 2.5 per cent salary increases in the following three years.
‘We’re not walking away:’ Government responds
Responding to Mr Gavrielatos’ comments, Ms Car maintained negotiations were ongoing, while expressing dissapointment at Thursday’s events.
She stressed the government and the Federation “were in agreement” over many things, including “significantly uplifting salaries” and measures which would allow beginning teachers to become the highest paid in the country.
Ms Car added that both the government and union were “swapping offers” late into Wednesday night.
“With respect, I’m really disappointed about where things have landed today,” she said.
Hesitant to offer specific details around negotiations, she said the government wanted to offer teachers a multi-year agreement, which featured a “very significant uplift” at the start.
However, she did not confirm whether this would be followed by 2.5 per cent annual increases for subsequent years.
Ms Car also maintained an ultimate deal would need to be organised “responsibly,” and supported through productivity improvements and budget savings.
“We’re not walking away,” she said.
“This government is wholly committed to lifting teacher salaries to ensure that we do something about the chronic teacher shortage because our kids are relying on us to do that.”
NSW Premier Chris Minns also urged the NSW Teachers Federation to continue negotiations.
“That doesn’t mean they have to agree with our final offer. That doesn’t mean we’re putting a gun to their head to accept the offer from the NSW government but we want conversations to continue.”
He said he didn’t want a “shoot out,” that could involve disruptive industrial action, or strikes.
“We believe we’ve got a good process in place to lift wages and conditions for the teaching workforce to ensure that more people become teachers straight out of university,” he said.
“I want to give a big message to teachers and parents and students in NSW: ‘We are prepared to talk, we want to get around that negotiating table’.”