More than 8,000 teachers belonging to Queensland’s catholic schools stopped work on Thursday to demand for better pay and service conditions. The strike affected nearly 250 primary and high schools in different parts of the state.

The main demand of the teachers on strike is a 3.25 percent annual hike in pay, reports The ABC. The teachers’ strike was led by the Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA).

“Our members are very frustrated after 10 months of negotiations – we’ve been very patient with the employers,” IEUA spokesman Terry Burke said. According to him, the hike is indispensable to bring parity of wages for Queensland teachers in line with their interstate counterparts.

The teachers on strike also held rallies to highlight their concerns such as delay in wage pact and increased workloads. In Brisbane, 1,000 teachers held a rally as part of the statewide strike.

The union leader said the strike was unavoidable. “We certainly tried to send them the message with short stoppages in late 2015. The employers are yet to get the message seemingly and our members have authorised a full day’s action,” he added.

Queensland branch president of IEUA Andrew Elphinstone complained that independent teachers are lagging behind their interstate counterparts. He called for a fair deal on wages. “Teachers, school officers and service staff are the face, the hands and the heart and soul of what makes Catholic education what it is,” he said.

However, the head of the Catholic Education Commission, Leanne Perry, rejected the teachers’ demands. She stood firm on the offer at 2.5 percent as the annual pay hike.

“We hope we’re not at a stalemate – we want to continue to negotiate and to talk,” she said. Perry insisted that CEC’s position was “fair and reasonable.” CEC spokesman John Phelan urged the teachers to accept the “fair offer.”

“Every state has an entirely different system – we think a 2.5 per cent is very reasonable,” he added.

Perry said all schools would remain open and students will be kept busy with a variety of programs. “All of our Catholic schools will be open tomorrow, where students will be taught the full program, taught a modified program or be supervised,” she said. However, Perry conceded that some schools have already asked parents to keep students at home, reports Brisbane Times.