Otago Daily Times
Breakaway primary principals’ union proposed
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