Mid North Coast public and private school teachers have joined a statewide strike protesting staff shortages.
Around 300 teachers from Kempsey to Forster rallied in Port Macquarie on June 30 calling for more competitive salaries as they struggle with unsustainable workloads and worsening staff shortages.
It's the third strike in six months called by the NSW Teachers Federation and Independent Education Union NSW/ACT (IEUA NSW/ACT), representing 85,000 teachers.
It's also the first time in more than 25 years both unions have joined forces to strike for 24 hours.
President of the Camden Haven Teachers Association and Camden Haven High School teacher James Langley said the public school union was represented by eight branches at the Port Macquarie rally.
"We also have members from the IEUA NSW/ACT striking with us today," he said.
"This rally is the culmination of a very long period of underpaying teachers which has resulted in teacher shortages.
"In primary schools, for example, students are having to stay in the playground all day or at least half the day because their teachers are sick and we can't source casual teachers.
"There aren't enough people who want to be teachers and that's because it's a hard job and conditions haven't improved in 60 years, but the complexity of the work has increased."
NSW Teachers Federation representative and Westport Public School teacher Amy Harland said the goal of Thursday's industrial action is to get a better outcome for students.
"Students need a teacher who knows their subject in every lesson of every day. It's not just what they need, but what they deserve," she said.
"We are standing together today because we can't accept the crippling teacher shortages.
"These shortages can't be fixed without fixing salaries and the workload problem."
St Paul's College Kempsey teacher Leon Robinson said there is a lack of support for teachers.
"We all teach the same curriculum and we all want the same changes to happen," he said.
"Teachers are under a lot of stress at the moment because of the pandemic. At our school there are as many as 15 teachers away on any one day and we have a pool of five for six casual teachers to cover sick staff.
"It's really hard work and we don't think we're being supported enough."
Representatives from both unions gathered at Westport Park for the rally before marching into the Port Macquarie CBD, chanting about staff shortages and working conditions.
The NSW Teachers Federation is asking for a pay rise of between five and seven per cent to keep up with the cost of living.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was disappointed by the decision to strike and said it was politically motivated.
Ms Mitchell defended the government's public sector wages policy, calling it the most generous in the country.
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