Hip­kins to teach­ers: no more cash

The Dominion Post - - News - Damian Ge­orge and Col­lette Devlin

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Chris Hip­kins says the Gov­ern­ment has no more money to of­fer pri­mary school teach­ers, who have voted to strike next week over pay.

The New Zealand Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute (NZEI), which rep­re­sents about 27,000 pri­mary school staff, con­firmed yes­ter­day that teach­ers and prin­ci­pals across the coun­try would go on a week­long rolling strike be­tween No­vem­ber 12 and 16.

That is de­spite most pri­mary teach­ers be­ing of­fered an al­most $10,000 salary in­crease un­der a pro­posed new deal, up from an al­most $7000 in­crease put for­ward in the Gov­ern­ment’s first of­fer.

A new top salary band was also put on the ta­ble that would see most teach­ers earn­ing more than $85,000 a year within three years, and a ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant num­ber’’ earn­ing up to $90,000.

‘‘I have to say they need to con­sider that in light of what other New Zealan­ders are earn­ing. There aren’t many work­forces in New Zealand at the mo­ment that would be tak­ing strike [ac­tion] over a $10,000 pay rise,’’ Hip­kins said yes­ter­day.

The new $698 mil­lion of­fer was the most the Gov­ern­ment could of­fer, and it was dis­ap­point­ing NZEI had voted to strike with­out con­sult­ing its mem­bers or tak­ing time to dis­cuss the new deal with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, he said.

The min­istry had of­fered to pay teach­ers to at­tend meet­ings to dis­cuss the of­fer. ‘‘We can con­sider re­con­fig­ur­ing the of­fer, and that’s al­ways been on the ta­ble, but there won’t be any fur­ther money from the Gov­ern­ment.’’

NZEI and the min­istry re­cently en­tered fa­cil­i­ta­tion, led by the Em­ploy­ment Re­la­tions Author­ity (ERA), but the meet­ings failed to find a so­lu­tion. The ERA re­leased the out­come of those talks yes­ter­day, say­ing it ‘‘strongly rec­om­mended’’ the union ac­cept the min­istry’s pack­age, and that the Gov­ern­ment had ‘‘clearly gone as far as it will go’’.

ERA fa­cil­i­ta­tor James Crichton said talks be­tween the two par­ties col­lapsed on Thurs­day af­ter the union re­jected the min­istry’s of­fer to fund a half-day of paid leave to en­able the union to con­sult with its mem­bers on the lat­est pay deal.

‘‘My pre­vail­ing im­pres­sion of this fa­cil­i­ta­tion is that NZEI came into the process with a series of pro­pos­als, which taken in their to­tal­ity had an air of un­re­al­ity about them.’’

The rolling strike will be the sec­ond time pri­mary school union mem­bers have walked out of their class­rooms over pay and con­di­tions this year.

NZEI Te Riu Roa pres­i­dent Lynda Stu­art said the lat­est of­fer did not ad­dress class sizes or teach­ers’ pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment time out­side of the class­room.

‘‘What we asked for had chil­dren at the heart. For ex­am­ple, more time to teach and smaller class sizes.’’

The min­istry said its new of­fer would cost $129m more than its pre­vi­ous pro­posal, and in­cluded ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant pay in­creases’’ for NZEI mem­bers.

‘‘It means that most teach­ers would get be­tween $9500 and $11,000 ex­tra an­nu­ally in their pay pack­ets by 2020. The of­fer also pro­vides for ad­di­tional pro­gres­sion on the pay scale,’’ sec­re­tary Iona Hol­sted said.

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