Big penalties for illegal strikes in NSW

With teachers and nurses in NSW planning strikes next week the government is threatening to impose hefty penalties for illegal industrial action.

Nurses and teachers are planning to walk off the job on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, in response to the government’s budget this week.

They are unhappy with the three per cent lift to public sector wages, saying it is a cut to real wages and does not address crippling workloads and staff shortages.


In response, the NSW government on Thursday flagged it will introduce amendments to the Industrial Relations Act to impose bigger penalties for unions striking in defiance of the Industrial Relations Commission.

The maximum penalty will be increased to $55,000 for the first day of the contravention, plus a further $27,500 for each subsequent day.

For any subsequent strike action unions could be hit with a $110,000 penalty, followed by an additional $55,000 for each day the contravention continues.

Employee Relations Minister Damien Tudehope said the increased fines aimed to deter unions from disrupting essential services.

“Illegal strike action has had incredibly damaging consequences for students, families and workers across the state,” Mr Tudehope said.

The government will introduce the legislation “to send a clear and unambiguous message that deliberate contraventions that cause damage to the community will not be tolerated”.

Last month’s strike by teachers shut down more than 450 public schools, affecting more than 700,000 students.

“This causes enormous inconvenience to families and economic damage from workers having to take the day off to care for their kids,” Mr Tudehope said.

“We want to put a stop to this sort of disruption and disorder, and use the established mechanisms of the Industrial Relations Commission to resolve disputes without hurting innocent citizens.”

Current penalties allow for a maximum $10,000 fine for the first day of an illegal strike and $5000 for every day thereafter, or, if an organisation has previously been penalised, a maximum of $20,000 for the first day and $10,000 for every day thereafter.

© AAP 2022