By: Simon Collins

More strikes by both primary and secondary teachers look on the cards as both teacher groups gather for their annual conferences this week.

Primary teachers at the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) conference in Rotorua are expected to decide tomorrow on their recommended next action – most likely a two-day strike next term – to follow up a one-day strike on August 15.

Secondary teachers will meet a day later in Wellington and are also expected to reject an opening offer from the Ministry of Education in response to the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) claim for a 15 per cent pay rise.

However, they are expected to talk further with the ministry before taking industrial action.

Jason Downes, 46, a teacher at Koru School in Mangere, said all NZEI work sites have already been asked to choose between options for the next action by primary schools, including a two-day national strike, rolling regional stoppages and a work-to-rule, which would see teachers stop doing tasks outside their job descriptions, such as coaching sports and organising school productions.

“That information will be fed back to us at this conference,” he said at the opening of the NZEI meeting today.

“I think a number of members within my site are looking at possible strikes, and the work-to-rule actually costs us more because it’s deemed as a potential strike and becomes an ongoing thing.”

Manpreet Dhaliwal, 36, from Hingaia Primary School at Karaka, said the work-to-rule would also be more disruptive for students.

“We don’t want to put a burden on our families, but if we need to make our voices heard maybe we will walk out again,” she said.

The NZEI is seeking a 16 per cent pay rise over two years plus more staffing to reduce teachers’ workloads.

The ministry initially offered pay rises of 14.7 per cent for beginning teachers, but only 6.1 per cent at the top of the basic scale, over three years.

After the first strike, the ministry amended its offer to a flat 9.3 per cent rise over three years for all teachers. But NZEI members rejected the amended offer “overwhelmingly” in an electronic vote last week.

Downes, who is one of two teachers teaching 69 Year 8 students, said teachers needed a “pay jolt” to attract more people into the profession.

“If you look at what’s being offered, it’s like a real slap in the face. It equates to about $40 a week,” he said.

Carl Pynenburg, 30, from Worser Bay School in Wellington, said the next step would not necessarily be another strike.

“We need to find options that put pressure on the Government without putting more pressure on already stressed out teachers and families,” he said.

“We have been looking at having stands at fairs where we can interact with our families and engage them. There are social media campaigns to engage some of our younger community.”

Another Wellington teacher, Steph Lamborn from Muritai School, 26, suggested the ministry could help teachers by offering relief on their student loans or better KiwiSaver provisions.

“I have lots of friends who have left [teaching] in the last two years,” she said.

“For me, it’s about a career framework. We have a career structure where the only way you can develop further is through management.

“I don’t want to be a principal. Principals I’ve seen are very stressed people. I will reach the top of the pay band in two years, that will be my fifth year. It’s a bit limiting.”

Source: NZ Herald


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