Andrew Dickens: Do teachers deserve 14.5 percent pay rise?

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 5 October 2017, 7:38AM
Based on the cost of living and their lack of pay rises it is probably fair. (Photo \ Getty Images)
Based on the cost of living and their lack of pay rises it is probably fair. (Photo \ Getty Images)

So here's a question for you. Should teachers get a 14.5 per cent pay rise next year?

Teachers are meeting to decide what they're going to ask for in their pay negotiations in the middle of next year and they're already threatening strike action. And the indication is they're going hard and asking for 14.5.

Now a load of people yesterday said this was outlandish. A huge increase. What do the teachers think they're playing at? No wage earner gets an increase like that! I haven't! The only people who get wage increases like that are people like Theo Spreirings from Fonterra, who by the way got a 78 per cent increase, but that's another story.

Now I get all that but let's step back a bit and consider the relativity of this all.

Apparently we're doing great. Our GDP is one of the best in the world. We're the rock star economy. Everyone should be getting pay rises. But obviously we're not. When was your last one? 

But it's not a rock star economy when it comes to wages.  Much was made of our productivity during the election. It's low and it's not good. Last week 100 business leaders signed an open letter that said we have to address our moribund productivity. That's their word. The business leaders. The ones who help decide our pay. They call our productivity moribund.

The important thing to look at is not the Nations overall GDP but the GDP per capita and the GDP per hour worked. So as a nation we look good. There are more of us and we're working longer and harder. The problem is each hour we work we're making no more wealth than we were last year or the year before that. It's in the statistics in black and white. We're running to stand still

It's been like this for a long while now but especially since the Global Financial Crisis. 

If you talk to economists for any length of time they will talk on and on about productivity but they'll also tell you there's a pent up frustration about wages that goes back long enough that it may be starting to blow. And it's everywhere. Private and public sector. I was warned a couple of months back by a guy in the finance business that he could see more and more strikes popping up in the near future because of wage pressure.

Teachers are one of the few sectors that still have a national collective contract. So that makes their pay demands news when they say they need 14.5 percent more. But for all of the rest of us on individual contracts, I ask, are you happy? If you could, wouldn't you be asking for 14.5 per cent more? I bet you would and it would be reasonable

The real question to debate is not whether teachers deserve 14.5 percent more pay. Based on the cost of living and their lack of pay rises it is probably fair. The real question is why wages in this country are so stubbornly low and why we seem powerless to do anything about it.

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