Teacher strike to hit Otago schools

As teachers at 22 Otago secondary schools prepare to strike on Wednesday, the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) is planning another round of rostered strikes in term four.

Wednesday's strike, in response to stalled pay negotiations, will affect nearly 13,000 secondary school pupils as classes are closed.

Many schools are attempting to provide some supervision for pupils if parents have difficulty making alternative plans.

Parents are advised to call to see what, if any, provisions have been made.

The strike action is the result of PPTA members voting overwhelmingly to reject the Government's latest pay offer in secondary teachers' collective agreement negotiations.

Secondary teachers across the country want a 4% pay rise.

The Ministry of Education is offering a 1.5% increase.

New Zealand PPTA Otago representative Jocelyn Hunter said striking was not ideal, but the executive felt it was being backed into a corner because the ministry had stopped listening.

Discussions around issues such as capping class sizes, free influenza immunisations for teachers, time for professional development and the provision of laptops for teachers had been shut down by ministry negotiators, she said.

PPTA president Kate Gains-ford said the strike could be averted if the ministry came back with an offer addressing the PPTA's claims and concerns.

If not, PPTA members planned to run a series of "rostering home" strikes during term four, in which pupils in certain year levels would be sent home for the day, Ms Gainsford said.

Wednesday's strike has been criticised by Prime Minister John Key, who said it showed how "disconnected" the PPTA was from the real world.

Mr Key said the Government had offered a deal consistent with what nurses and police had, and it was in line with inflation.

Education Minister Anne Tolley was also disappointed with the strike action and believed parents would not appreciate it.

She urged the PPTA to return to the table and continue negotiations.

Area schools and Columba College are the only secondary schools which will not be affected by the strike because their teachers are covered by the area school teachers' collective agreement.

Canterbury secondary schools have also been exempted by the PPTA from the strike action because of the difficulties caused by the area's recent earthquake.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

Secondary strike
Schools affected:
Schools unaffected: 5
Pupils affected: About 12,750

Time line
June 30:
Collective agreement expires.
May 3: Negotiations start between Ministry of Education and Post Primary Teachers' Association.
August: Negotiations break down. PPTA members vote to strike.
September 15: PPTA members due to strike.
Term 4: Proposed strikes to affect teaching certain year levels.


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