Primary teachers and principals vote to strike

3 July 2018

Frustrated primary teachers and principals have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a three-hour work stoppage on 15 August, and are now discussing whether to extend the strike to a full day.

At packed paid union meetings over the past two weeks, primary principal and teacher members of NZEI Te Riu Roa expressed their anger at the Ministry of Education’s pay offers.

Principals and teachers had asked for more time to teach and lead, more support for children with additional learning needs and a pay jolt to stem the teacher shortage.

Instead, the vast majority of teachers (about 86%) are being offered a pay rise ranging from about 2.2-2.6% a year for three years, and just 12 minutes extra a week of time to work individually with children or plan and assess learning. 

The offer was far from the 16% over two years that members had identified as being necessary to address recruitment and retention issues that had grown during the term of the previous National government.  The request to fund a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in every school to assist children with additional learning needs was also ignored. 

The lead negotiator for teachers, Liam Rutherford, said there was a growing sense that the current crisis would become a disaster if the Government did not get serious about the issues facing the profession.

“At many of the meetings, members felt that a stoppage from 1.30-4.30pm did not send a strong enough message, and there were many calls for the strike to be for a full day.

“In response, NZEI’s National Executive is now calling for member feedback on whether to extend the strike, which may result in an electronic ballot being held at the beginning of next term,” he said.

The lead negotiator for principals, Louise Green, said teachers and principals were very conscious of the inconvenience for students and families, “but we’re taking action now to avert the very real threat of larger class sizes within just a few years.”

Ms Green said the ongoing support of school communities and whānau was essential to the success of the campaign. A nationwide day of school-based community engagement is being planned for August 3.

A recent survey found widespread community support for a significant pay rise for teachers.

“We want to be able to give every student a quality education that meets their needs, and our parent communities understand that ,” said Ms Green.

“Primary teachers have not taken industrial action in New Zealand since 1994 and the fact that we are taking such a step shows the grave concerns we have for the future of quality public education.  The Government needs to take some courageous decisions now for the sake of children and their learning.”

NZEI will be meeting with the Ministry in further negotiations over the coming weeks to try and reach a settlement that addresses the issues that principals and teachers have raised.


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