Massive crowds swarm Sydney in first teachers strike of its kind in 25 years

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Thousands of NSW public and Catholic schools are striking for 24 hours in the first strike of its kind in 25 years.

Teachers marched on Sydney’s CBD on Thursday, angry at a NSW budget that offered no more than a 3 cent pay rise this year, with the possibility of 3.5 per cent the following year.

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It’s the third strike in six months called by either the NSW Teachers Federation or Independent Education Union NSW/ACT, representing 85,000 teachers.

However, it is the first time in more than 25 years both unions have joined forces to strike for 24 hours.

The strike is expected to affect about a million families, just a day before a two-week school break.

“We have a crisis in the form of a teacher shortage, a crisis that is the government’s own making,” NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said on Wednesday.

NSW public and private school teachers are striking for 24 hours over staff shortages and pay. Credit: AAP

“The government has known for years the causes of this crisis: uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads.”

The strikers have been rallying under the slogan “More Than Thanks”, demanding to be remunerated for the efforts they are commended for.

Protesters’ signs read “thanks won’t buy lettuce”, and “an apple a day not equal to pay”.

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Education Minister Sarah Mitchell is disappointed by the decision to strike and says it’s politically motivated.

Most schools will have some minimal supervision but a percentage of schools will be closed for the day.

Mitchell defended the government’s public sector wages policy, calling it the most generous in the country.

Teachers continue to rally outside of Sydney CBD, with thousands also protesting in regional hubs such as Wollongong and Tweed Heads.

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A week of strikes

Disruptions continue to clog the city as industrial action by rail workers affects the frequency of train services.

The rail union says its strike will continue this week despite a verbal commitment from Transport Minister David Elliott to spend $264 million on safety modifications of a Korean-made fleet.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been locked in long-running stoush with the government over the modifications.

RTBU secretary Alex Claassens said the union wants to see the complete package and commitment in writing, and discuss it with members, before any action is called off.

“Rail workers and commuters have been burnt too many times to believe what one minister in one meeting says,” Mr Claassens said.

Sydney Trains CEO Matt Longland said the network was operating at reduced capacity, resembling a weekend timetable.

He advised commuters to avoid train travel or allow extra time as services will be less frequent and carriages more crowded.

The rail union began industrial action on Tuesday by cutting train speeds to 60 km/h.

On Friday, speeds will be reduced by 70 per cent during peak periods.

Find out if your trains will be affected here.

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