Teachers Union members ramp up campaign

Teachers gathered in force at Newcastle Panthers Club yesterday where they voted unanimously to continue to intensify their campaign against state government reforms, which may mean further strike action.

Hunter organiser for the NSW Teachers Federation Fred Dumbrell said an estimated 1200 teachers attended the meeting during a 24-hour strike.

About 5000 more rallied at Sydney Town Hall with more at meetings held at 30 other venues across NSW.

The federation says the government's Local Schools, Local Decisions policy, which gives school principals more control over their school's budget, will force principals to make financially-driven staffing decisions with adverse impacts on the quality and composition of teaching staff.

It would force principals to become business managers, shifting their focus away from education outcomes, one Hunter teacher said yesterday.

Teachers also believe the policy will lead to fewer permanent teaching positions because temporary staff are cheaper.

President of the Maitland Teachers Association, Brian Adamthwaite, said the policy will further disadvantage remote schools and other schools which struggled to attract teachers.

The State Government slammed the strike action, with Education Minister Adrian Piccoli accusing the union of running a "scare campaign".

"We are not reducing school budgets and we are not reducing the education budget," he said.

"I say to teachers, get your own information."

The industrial action took place in defiance of the Industrial Relations Commission which found the action was not in the public interest.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has warned the Teachers Federation he is determined to push ahead with legislation to increase fines for unions that strike illegally, from $10,000 up to $110,000.

A NSW Department of Education spokesman said 54 of the Hunter Central Coast's 304 government schools were closed.

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