Wage caps hurt Hunter, hit education

The NSW Government’s employee salary cap and austerity drive is threatening public services in the Hunter – including schools and TAFE – that inject a crucial $6 billion into the region a year.

A new report released on 22 November by the Centre for Future Work found “persistent capping of wage increases” was costing the typical state-employed worker $16,700 a year and “depriving the region of millions of dollars that would have been funneled back into local communities”.

For teachers in the region, the Government’s refusal to negotiate over the wage caps and workloads has led to teacher shortages that are reflected across the state.

In the state electorate of Upper Hunter, there are 37.3 vacant permanent positions across its 44 schools, with six vacancies alone at Muswellbrook High School.

The report, Public Services in the Hunter: An Engine of Economic and Social Prosperity, found that essential public services, such as education, generate far-reaching economic and social benefits for the Hunter, supporting tens of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly.

Federation’s local Organiser Jack Galvin Waight said the report further shows that in the Hunter the public sector is crucial to the local economy, wellbeing and prosperity.

“Public services, such as our amazing Hunter TAFEs and public schools, are integral to the entire region,” Mr Galvin Waight said.

“However, unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive salaries, through the wages cap, have reduced the attractiveness of teaching and made it impossible to attract and retain the teachers we need in our region.”

Federation states the decision by the Perrottet Government to cap pay increases at 2.53 per cent a year for three years – when inflation is 7.3 per cent and rising – defies its own research that shows the uncompetitive salaries of teachers are a major reason why the number of people studying to become a teacher has plummeted.

“The State Government is undermining the benefits that could flow from the public sector and degrading the teaching profession and the quality and stability of public sector jobs in general,” Mr Galvin Waight said.

“This research shows that needless austerity and pay caps threaten public services and the Hunter economy.

“The teacher shortages in the Hunter and the cuts to TAFE are crippling our students’ learning and have led to a profession in crisis.

“The Government’s own documents show that the only way to fix the teacher shortages is by addressing unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive pay. Any Government that no longer cares about the public sector and public education is not fit to govern.”

Mr Galvin Waight said the report proves that public services not only improve quality of life but also attract investment in the region.

“An investment in our students and teachers’ future is an investment in our future,” he said.

“All told, public service delivery in the Hunter supports $6 billion in annual economic activity, and 44,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“In total, every 10 direct state service jobs in the Hunter support another five jobs in the private sector.

“Public services also improve quality of life, our community and are an especially important source of work and income for women. Women account for 64 per cent of jobs in major Hunter public sector industries.”