Unions unite to scrap pay cap

The IEU attended a key wages summit as NSW public servants geared up to stop work on 8 June for a better deal for essential workers. Here’s why it matters for IEU members.

The IEU joined the NSW Teachers Federation, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, the Public Service Association of NSW, the Australian Services Union and others at a specially convened summit on Sunday 5 June to talk strategies for smashing the NSW Government public sector salary cap that is also constraining Catholic school staff salaries.

The summit heard from Griffith University Emeritus Professor of Industrial Relations David Peetz who discussed his research into wage caps. On Monday 6 June, the NSW Government announced it would raise the salary cap from 2.5% to 3%. But it is not enough. With inflation running at 5.1%, Peetz's research found that the pay of a Band 2 school teacher would go backwards by $2509 this financial year alone.

Union officials and members addressed the 100-strong crowd. Here are some excerpts:

IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam

"The Catholic employers watch and wait for what the NSW Government does before they make an offer to teachers and support staff. They will not put a cent more, nor a day before, on the table. We’re in the federal industrial relations system, so our members have to engage in an arduous and complex voting process to take industrial action. Well guess what? Across NSW and the ACT, 94-95 percent voted for the right to take action. And when we took that industrial action, we thanked the Public Service Association of NSW because in 2019 they achieved decent pay rises for support staff in government schools. It has taken 85 hours of meetings for the Catholic employers to finally decide support staff in the Catholic systemic sector do the same jobs as their counterparts in government schools.”

IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Deputy President and secondary school teacher Tina Ruello

"During the pandemic, school staff were so valuable we were deemed essential. We are valuable to society. But we are a cheap source of labour to our employers. I teach a full load, six classes a day. On any given day I teach between 130 and 150 students of varying needs. I’m entrusted with their duty of care. Parents and communities rely on me to do what I do well. I value what I do, and I expect our employers to value it too. Our employers will cry poor and abrogate responsibility for a just wage increase. But I say to them: Do not hide behind the NSW Government wages cap.”

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey

“I want to know that when kids get up in the morning they can go to school on a bus, driven by a driver who will get them there safely, where they’ll be taught by a skilled and professional teacher, and if they fall over in the playground and hurt themselves, they’ll be taken to hospital by paramedics and cared for by nurses without having to wait eight hours.”

Monica Crouch