More than 17,000 teachers and support staff in 540 Catholic diocesan schools throughout NSW and the ACT have voted overwhelmingly for the right to take protected industrial action on May 27.
Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Wollongong Dioceses Branch organiser Pam Smith said it was up to members across the region, including the Southern Highlands, it they wanted to participate in the stop work action.
"We want to ensure the teaching profession and support staff are protected," she said.
A rally will take place in Wollongong at 10 am at McCabe Park on Burelli Street.
IEUA NSW/ACT branch secretary Mark Northahm said taking protected industrial action was no small thing.
"We don't take it lightly," he said.
"Teachers and support staff across both the government and non-government sectors are dedicated professionals pushed to breaking point.
"Schools have been running on good will, but it is rapidly evaporating."
For the right to take protected action, IEU members participated in a formal balloting process complying with strict federal laws.
It was run across all 11 Catholic dioceses by an external agent - and all 11 Catholic dioceses sent a strong message that it's time for action.
"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," Northam said.
"Catholic school employers are following the NSW Government's lead in limiting pay rises to 2.04 per cent, a short-sighted approach that has resulted in the current staffing crisis.
"Teachers are leaving the profession and graduates are not entering it.
"During the pandemic, parents and the community realised how vital teachers and support staff are, and just how much work they do. Now we urge employers to Hear Our Voice."
The IEU has been negotiating a new enterprise agreement for its members in Catholic diocesan schools throughout NSW and the ACT since January, calling on employers to:
IEUA NSW ACT branch president Chris Wilkinson said teachers were exhausted.
With the chronic shortage of casuals, teachers and support staff are being asked to take extra lessons and double classes on top of their teaching load, which takes away precious planning and preparation time," he said.
"We urge employers to listen to teachers and support staff, hear our voices and pay us what we deserve."
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