Fa­cil­i­ta­tion fails to pre­vent teach­ers’ strike next week

The Southland Times - - National News - Damian Ge­orge

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 week-long rolling strike be­tween No­vem­ber 12 and 16.

That is de­spite most pri­mary teach­ers be­ing of­fered an al­most $10,000 an­nual 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,’’ Hip­kins said yes­ter­day. ‘‘There aren’t many work­forces in New Zea­land at the mo­ment that would be tak­ing strike over a $10,000 pay rise.’’

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 this week en­tered fa­cil­i­ta­tion, led by the Em­ploy­ment Re­la­tions Au­thor­ity, to come to an agree­ment but failed to find a so­lu­tion.

Mon­day’s 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.’’

Next week’s strike meet­ings would be used to con­sider the of­fer, as well as ERA rec­om­men­da­tions to come out of this week’s fa­cil­i­ta­tion.

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,’’ ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary Iona Hol­sted said.

‘‘The of­fer also pro­vides for ad­di­tional pro­gres­sion on the pay scale,’’ Hol­sted said.

‘‘Our of­fer took into ac­count the large in­vest­ment be­ing made by the Gov­ern­ment into learn­ing sup­port, in­clud­ing the re­cent an­nounce­ment of $217m for 600 new learn­ing sup­port co-or­di­na­tor roles, which the NZEI has asked for as part of eas­ing teacher work­loads, and help­ing par­ents and chil­dren. Set­tling pay ne­go­ti­a­tions with the NZEI is im­por­tant and we have done all we can to reach agree­ment. We know strike ac­tion is dis­rup­tive for chil­dren’s learn­ing and for par­ents.’’

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