Christchurch teachers are not concerned about the legality of
a planned strike in February, saying it is time to tell the
Government "enough is enough".
Teachers and principals yesterday voted for the action on
February 19 next year - the day after the Ministry of
Education is due to reveal its controversial education
reforms plans in the rebuilding city.
The action was decided at a crunch teachers' union meeting
after rising anger and concern over a Government proposal to
merge or close 39 schools in the city rebuilding from the
More than 83 per cent voted for strike action, with 520 of
846 voters backing a strike on February 19.
Just 13 per cent voted no.
However, employment law specialist Jane Latimer told Radio
New Zealand there could be legal ramifications as a strike is
only legal if there has been a breakdown in collective
bargaining or because of health and safety reasons.
"If it is an illegal strike there are penalties, they could
go to court, there would be a very good chance of getting an
injunction - the employment court would grant an injunction,"
John Leadbetter, a teacher at Parkview School which has
escaped any threat of change, was unfazed by the potential
"This strike is technically unlawful, yes it is, but when you
look the parents in the eye and you say 'We are doing it for
your children', they will understand," he said.
He spoke passionately about the role teachers played in their
communities, especially after the deadly February 22 quake.
"I did not know of one single teacher who ran out the gate to
look after their families. We stayed, we did our jobs, we
cared for our kids, and we've continued to care about them
every single day since," he said, to resounding applause.
Mr Leadbetter urged his colleagues to vote for a strike in
February, rather than next Wednesday which was the other
ballot option, along with no strike action at all, to tell
the Government "enough is enough".
"We are not guinea pigs. Schools are the centre of the
community and everyone in this room are the guardians of
those schools," he said.
New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) union president Ian
Leckie said the Government proposals to close 13 schools and
put 26 through some form of merger was based on "wrong or
poor quality information".
Mr Leckie applauded the Christchurch teachers for making a
stand against the unnecessary disruption and radical reform.
He said teachers had provided a "normality and stability
while everything else was shaking"during and after the
The vote showed they refused to be used as guinea pigs for a
Government agenda which they would like to see rolled out
across the country, he said.
Sandra Spekreijse, local union member, chaired the meeting
and read out apologies from a host of politicians, including
Hekia Parata who was "unavailable", which was met by risible
Almost 900 teachers and principals filled the Christchurch
Riding for the Disabled Indoor Arena and suffered
temperatures soaring above 30 degrees to make themselves
They waved placards which stated 'Listen to Christchurch -
genuine democracy, genuine consultation' and were vocal in
their support of the action.
A petition signed by 7,000 teachers from across New Zealand,
was handed to Megan Woods, MP for Wigram, to pass on to Prime
Minister John Key.
"Christchurch residents have been through enough in the last
two years, they should not have the future of their schools
dictated to them by the Beehive," Ms Woods said.
"If changes are to be made, the Government needs to take the
community with them. Hekia Parata has botched the
consultation process from day one, but it is not too late for
her to listen to the community."
After the vote, most teachers were delighted with the result.
"It's pretty clear cut, isn't it," said Niki Penny, a teacher
at Branston Intermediate, a school in Hornby earmarked for
Strike action was not something teachers took lightly, she
said, but added that the Government had left them with no
"The parents and local communities are right behind us on
this and feelings are running high," Ms. Penny said.
"This is not about stuff you might traditionally strike for -
it's about protecting the future of our kids."