Facilitation fails to prevent teachers’ strike next week
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.’’