Otago Daily Times

Break­away pri­mary prin­ci­pals’ union pro­posed

- JOHN GERRITSEN Society · Wellington, New Zealand · New Zealand · New Zealand Educational Institute

WELLINGTON: Hun­dreds of pri­mary school prin­ci­pals want to break from the New Zealand Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute (NZEI) and start a new union.

The New Zealand Prin­ci­pals’ Fed­er­a­tion made the pro­posal and polled its mem­bers dur­ing the past week be­cause of dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the NZEI.

The union has urged its mem­bers to stay with it and warned a new or­gan­i­sa­tion would ‘‘chip away’’ at their col­lec­tive strength.

Prin­ci­pals’ Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Perry Rush said by the mid­dle of Fri­day, 850 of its mem­bers had voted on the pro­posal, 92% ap­prov­ing.

‘‘This is a re­ally sig­nif­i­cant mes­sage that mem­bers are send­ing the New Zealand Prin­ci­pals’ Fed­er­a­tion and we’ve now got a job to talk as an ex­ec­u­tive and to talk to the NZEI and chart a way for­ward,’’ Mr Rush told RNZ.

He said prin­ci­pals were un­happy with the NZEI over three main is­sues: the union’s cur­rent fo­cus on pay eq­uity for sup­port staff, lack of progress on work­load and well­be­ing prob­lems, and last year’s col­lec­tive agree­ment set­tle­ment.

‘‘Prin­ci­pals were very sup­port­ive of teach­ers who did very well out of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. Prin­ci­pals went on strike sev­eral times for their terms and con­di­tions and there’s very broad agree­ment across pri­mary prin­ci­pals that the union did not en­ter into those ne­go­ti­a­tions with the en­ergy that they would have hoped.’’

If a new union was set up it would cre­ate a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to the sec­ondary school sec­tor, where prin­ci­pals were rep­re­sented by two or­gan­i­sa­tions — the Sec­ondary Prin­ci­pals’ As­so­ci­a­tion’s union and the Post Pri­mary Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (PPTA), Mr Rush said.

Asked if mem­bers might ac­cept a stronger prin­ci­pal­fo­cused divi­sion within the NZEI rather than an en­tirely new or­gan­i­sa­tion, he said all op­tions were on the ta­ble.

‘‘We’re in­ter­ested in do­ing bet­ter for prin­ci­pals . . . Prin­ci­pals are not happy, we want to keep an open mind about how we move for­ward with this.

‘‘The pos­si­bil­ity of a be­spoke pri­mary prin­ci­pals’ union is on the ta­ble; we’re in­ter­ested to see what re­sponse the union is go­ing to have.’’

NZEI ex­ec­u­tive team mem­ber Mark Pot­ter said cre­at­ing a new union would weaken prin­ci­pals’ col­lec­tive voice.

‘‘We are far stronger to­gether, we re­ally are bet­ter if we are all act­ing in unity,’’ he said.

There were about 2000 pri­mary and in­ter­me­di­ate school prin­ci­pals and the vast be­longed to the NZEI.

The union rep­re­sented teach­ers, prin­ci­pals and sup­port staff, and those groups could sup­port one an­other in their re­spec­tive bar­gain­ing and cam­paigns, Mr Pot­ter said.

He said some prin­ci­pals were frus­trated by lack of progress on prob­lems such as work­load, but he had spo­ken also to oth­ers who wanted to stay with the NZEI.

The ma­jor­ity of the union’s prin­ci­pal mem­bers had ac­cepted last year’s set­tle­ment of their

ma­jor­ity col­lec­tive agree­ment, he said.

NZEI pres­i­dent Liam Ruther­ford emailed mem­bers telling them the Prin­ci­pals’ Fed­er­a­tion’s plan ‘‘di­rectly threat­ens’’ the union’s unity and urg­ing them to talk to prin­ci­pals about it.

‘‘If you’re in a school, we en­cour­age you to have con­ver­sa­tions with other mem­bers, es­pe­cially your prin­ci­pal, about why we’re stronger to­gether when cam­paign­ing to fix our work­load is­sues and a lack of re­sourc­ing for our schools,’’ he wrote. — RNZ

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