By: Lucy Bennett

Education Minister Chris Hipkins speaks on the prospect of PPTA teacher’s strikes and what pay rise the government might be prepared to pay them. / Video by Mark Mitchell

 

A 15 per cent pay claim by secondary school teachers is “out of the ballpark”, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has warned.

Hipkins spoke at the opening day of the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference in Wellington today where pay negotiations for its 17,500 members were the hot topic.

Hipkins appeared to be trying to manage expectations when he told delegates that there were huge deficits across many areas that the Government was trying to fix.

“We do want to spend more on education. But we can’t make up for nine years of educational and wider social neglect in one Budget, or even one term of Government. I think all of you know that,” he said.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Hipkins suggested the 15 per cent increase being sought by the PPTA in the first year of settlement was unrealistic.

“The Government needs to weigh up the overall pay increases that are being requested over the public sector. I think 15 per cent is certainly out of the ballpark that the Government would be willing to consider.”

Hipkins said he wouldn’t be drawn into negotiating through the media “but clearly we are committed to around the bargaining table and working through the issues teachers have been raising”.

The Government would look at how it could “reshape the offer” but the Government did not have an unlimited supply of money and was “stretching the envelope already”.

Hipkins said the PPTA had indicated it was not considering strike action at present but PPTA president Jack Boyle did not rule it out.

“We’re not planning industrial action at this point. I can’t say there will be no industrial action,” Boyle told the Herald.

“I’m not planning anything, it’s not my call. It will be around, through the process of negotiations, whether secondary teachers say ‘yes this is the direction we need or no this is so far away’.”

He said the Government and the union were a long way apart in their negotiations so far but the union was committed to getting around the bargaining table in good faith.

National’s education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye said it was not possible for the Government to cry poor when it was putting $2.8 billion into tertiary students, hundreds of millions into diplomats and funding into regional development. It needed to be upfront about the breakdown of the teachers’ package.

“We do understand the flow-on effect to other public sector workers but I don’t believe the Government has been transparent enough about the numbers,” she said.

PPTA delegates will discuss whether to back a recommendation from their union to reject the offer this afternoon.

“This offer doesn’t come anywhere near addressing the teacher shortages we are facing. We cannot countenance putting generations of young people’s learning at risk because there are not enough teachers to staff schools,” Boyle said.

The PPTA will then hold meetings around the country beginning on November 7.

Yesterday the primary teachers’ union, the NZEI, recommended a week of rolling one-day regional strikes between November 12 and 16 after rejecting their latest pay offer.
Members will vote from October 16-25 on that..

The union is seeking a 16 per cent pay increase over two years plus more staffing.

The Ministry of Education has offered a revised 9.3 per cent pay rise over three years.

The new proposed industrial action follows a one-day strike in August.

PPTA key claims

  • A pay rise of 15 per cent for a one-year term, taking the top of the pay scale to $89,700 and entry rate to $58,800, plus additional annual increases of 3.8 per cent.
  • Access to an accommodation allowance of a maximum $100 per week for teachers in areas with rents 110 per cent higher than the national median rental price.
  • Management salary units to increase from $4000 to $6000 (units recognise management or extra responsibilities).
  • Middle-management and senior-management allowances rise from $1000 to $1500.
  • Non-contact time to increase from five to six hours for all full-time teachers.
  • Non-contact time to increase by another hour for middle leaders

Source: NZ Herald

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