Strikes loom again as primary school teachers reject latest pay offer

Section
Education,
Publish Date
Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:41a.m.

Primary teachers and principals have overwhelmingly rejected their latest pay offers.

A nationwide strike for primary school teachers is being proposed on May 29.

The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) today revealed the results of voting over the Ministry of Education's most recent offer to settle the collective agreements.

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart said the voting results showed teachers and principals were united and resolute in their commitment to getting significantly improved pay, time and support for learning needs.

"We will be going straight back to talk to the government with that message – that it's time to get really serious about giving us time to teach and lead, and time to take some real steps to make teaching a viable long-term career choice," she said.

NZEI's national executive agreed over the weekend to call paid union meetings in the second week of next term (May 6-10). If there was no progress made by then, it is proposing members vote on taking partial strike action by working to rule from May 15 until a national day of strike action on May 29.

The work to rule would mean working only within 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

Stuart warned significant disruption could occur in schools next term if the government did not focus on finding a solution quickly.

"The solution is in the government's hands. We would all prefer to be in our schools focussed on teaching and learning, but members have sent a very clear message that they want to see change now," she said.

"That's why our next step is discussions with government to see how we can make progress."

Stuart said the new offer represented no new spending from the government compared to the previous offers.

Teacher leader Margie Askin-Jarden from Christchurch said teachers showed every day and in the most extreme circumstances that they prioritised the care and learning of children.

"But the profession truly is at breaking point," she said.

"We cannot continue to hold a broken system together because in the end the collateral damage is not just us, it is our children and their learning."

"Teachers in Christchurch know better than most that unless we get more resourcing for children with additional learning needs and address the extreme work and time pressure on teachers, we will continue to lose great teachers and struggle to attract new ones.

"That's why teachers and principals in Christchurch voted just as strongly to reject these offers as the rest of the country, and why we support action next term if it is needed."

The offer which teachers rejected included two options which would either give them more classroom release time or bring part of their pay increases forward by one year.

But both options have stuck to a previous offer to raise the basic pay scale by three per cent a year for three years plus add an extra step at the top of the scale and a $500 one-off payment - which the union says is only half a $1000 cash payment being offered to secondary teachers.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid earlier said the latest offer stayed within a fiscal envelope of $698 million over the four years to June 2022 - the same cost as the ministry's previous offer made in November.

She said the ministry told the union "before negotiations started that we would be staying within this amount".

The union, the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI), held the vote by electronic ballot instead of at paid union meetings, a change that was made in light of the mosque attacks.

They have already held two one-day strikes - a national strike on August 15 last year and a series of regional one-day strikes last November.

The two options being offered to primary teachers are:

  • Increasing paid classroom release time from 40 hours to 50 hours a year for each fulltime-equivalent teacher for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 only; OR
  • Adding a new step at the top of the pay scale in February 2020, one year earlier than offered in November.

 

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