Teacher strikes: Why now?

New Zealand Educational Institute and Post Primary Teachers' Association members are fighting for a better work environment and a better quality of education for our children. Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand Educational Institute and Post Primary Teachers' Association members are fighting for a better work environment and a better quality of education for our children. Photo: Getty Images
As primary and secondary school staff around the country prepare to go on strike on May 29, education reporter John Lewis looks at the sticking points in negotiations between the New Zealand Educational Institute, the Post Primary Teachers’ Association and the Ministry of Education.

Many may be asking themselves, ''How has it come to this''?

For the past few years, teachers and principals in both the New Zealand Educational Institute and Post Primary Teachers' Association unions have consistently complained about high workloads, lack of support for pupils with additional learning and behavioural needs, and under-valuing of the profession.

It has been a problem for more than a decade, and now it has come to a head.

Every school in the country is going on strike on May 29, which will no doubt throw much of New Zealand into chaos.

But why now?

They say it couldn't be fixed earlier, because under the previous government, the education sector was bombarded with policy changes that undermined the profession, including National Standards, charter schools, the introduction of online schooling, and big changes to the Teachers' Council.

They were massive distractions and the whole profession felt under siege.

With the change of government, many of those threats disappeared. But the high workloads, lack of support for pupils with additional learning and behavioural needs, and undervaluing of the profession remained.

NZEI and PPTA union executives say it has reached a crisis point, and if it is ever going to be fixed, now is the time to address those issues.

Both unions have each rejected four pay offers from the ministry to date.

In the case of NZEI members, they have voted each time on whether the ministry's offers have addressed those issues adequately, and the response has been clear - the present budget is not addressing the problems.

An NZEI spokeswoman said some progress had been made, but it was insufficient to address the ''deep-seated and fundamental issues'' facing the profession.

''This has led to a crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers and principals.''

The union is asking for a 16% pay rise over the two years of the agreement; a renewal of the pay parity clauses ensuring that primary principals and teachers are not worse-off than their post-primary colleagues; significant increases to staffing to support leaders, classroom teachers and teachers working with special needs pupils; a reduction of year 4-8 class sizes from 29 to 25; and more non-contact time so teachers can do more professional development and complete professional responsibilities such as assessments.

The PPTA's demands aim to drive recruitment and retention of secondary school staff.

It has asked for a 15% pay rise on all rates in the first year after settlement, and ongoing increases through a salary adjustment mechanism (SAM).

The union also wants pay increases to middle and senior management allowances; a weekly accommodation rental allowance for teachers in schools where the median weekly rental price exceeds 110% of the national median weekly rental; a mandatory reduction in maximum average class sizes; the provision of a Maori and Pasifika community liaison for each 100 Maori and Pasifika pupils on the roll; and increases to the Maori Immersion Teacher Allowance.

To help recruit and retain teachers and cover workload issues, the union also wants a significant increase in the time teachers can spend away from classroom teaching to address middle management workload and classroom administration.

It also wants the ministry to continue paying education practising certificate fees.

What is the Government offering?

The latest offer is a $698million pay improvement package for primary teachers and principals, and a $500million package for secondary teachers - $1.2billion combined.

The pay offers give about 24,000 teachers a pay rise of about $10,000 within 24 months.

Other teachers have been offered pay rises of at least 3% every year for three years (a cumulative increase of 9.3% over three years).

The Government believes pay parity between primary and secondary teachers has not been undermined.

The ministry's overall settlement offers to NZEI and PPTA members have been comparable, but each of the unions has made different choices about how to apply that settlement to their members.

Outside the collective bargaining process, the Government is also addressing teacher supply concerns by committing a further $10.5million for initiatives to boost teacher supply. This is on top of the $29.5million for initiatives already announced.

In 2018, nearly 400 more domestic students started teacher training compared with 2017 - a 9.8% increase. There were 4300 domestic students who started teacher training overall.

The Government has also provided an additional $283million for learning support as part of Budget 2018, and has announced a further $217million will be committed to fund 600 new learning support co-ordinators in schools.

To address workload concerns, the Government has already removed National Standards, and is advancing a review of NCEA in a bid to reduce workload for teachers and pupils.

It is also working with the primary and secondary sector to develop an Education Workforce Strategy to consider the nature of the wider education workforce needed to support principals and teachers to do their best work, and give them more time to teach.

The Government is also reviewing how teachers assess pupil learning and their progress, which impacts on teacher workload and their ability to focus on teaching.

Throughout the ongoing pay discussions, the ministry has been willing to discuss options for the combined $1.2billion settlement, and has invited both unions to talk about how to address their time and other concerns outside the pay talks.

At $1.2billion, the Government says it has exhausted the funds available to settle the collective agreements.

Pay scales

Teacher and principal

(Source: Ministry of Education)

, Primary principals’ core remuneration ranges from $98,360 to $165,339.
, With the Education Secretary’s approval, boards of trustees can pay an additional $16,311 to $25,871 for taking on extra responsibilities.
, Secondary principals’ core remuneration ranges from $104,015 to $216,654.
, With the Secretary’s approval, boards can pay an extra $16,168 to $31,345 for taking on extra responsibilities.
, Base primary teacher salaries range from $47,980 to $71,891 for someone with a teaching degree, or $49,588 to $75,949 for a trained teacher with a subject degree, for example a BSc.
, Base secondary teacher salaries range from $47,000 to $78,000, depending on the qualification they hold.
, Primary and secondary teachers receive extra remuneration in the form of units for taking on extra responsibilities.

Registered nurse
(Source: New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation)
, Following recent successful union negotiations, registered nurses’ salaries range from $54,354 to a top band of $130,653 on August 5. Salary bands are based on roles and responsibilities.

Police officer
(Source NZ: Police)
, Officers receive $64,675 per year in first year out of Police College,
, It rises to $71,641 per year within five years.
, Salaries rise with experience, rank and responsibility.



"Many may be asking themselves, ''How has it come to this''?
Because national didn't give a stuff and people see this govt as a soft touch.
So teachers, where do you think the money will come from for your increased wages?, that's right from the budgets set for learning support, special needs budgets etc.
Fair enough you want more pay but there comes a point where the money has to come from somewhere and that will come from the budgets set for the students you support.
At least this govt is willing to pay more ... unlike the last.

Sew the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Give education back to parents, take it away from the educationalists. No one will care more for education than parents. The state is not up to it.

[Education and the State, West] A comparison of private and state education outcomes in 1965. Even more stark today.

"the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." Aristotle, Ethics.

Pay scales need to reflect merit. The only thing we should discriminate upon. Forget about tickets. The great innovators, the great entrepreneurs, the great teachers, the best writers came out of the blue, and often skipped formal state clipped tickets. We need to get back to teaching kids how to be good people, and rejoice in action, not theory. In my opinion.

Frustrates me everytime I see a news outlet troting out the same inaccruate figures for Police wages. I was a Police Officer for a number of years and I can assure you a new cop does not get anywhere near $65k a year. In fact it will take about 5 before they earn that and this requires them to work 48 weeks out of 52 a year, may of those shifts between 10pm and 7am in the morning, in the rain/snow, while being abused and assaulted for their efforts. I have seen in the past these numbers include all raft of allowances etc that in reality no one is actually eligible for. I'd suggest doing a bit of research with a new cop to determine wage rather than relying on google. I am not saying teachers don't deserve a pay rise but if you are going to make a comparison how about you report all accurate aspects of the comparison not just the dollar amount.