By: Lucy Bennett and Simon Collins

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says he’s disappointed the primary teachers’ union has decided to go ahead with strikes next week without taking the Government’s latest offer to its members.

Primary teachers and principals will go ahead with rolling regional strikes next week after the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) rejected the offer worth close to $700 million over three years.

Members would consider the offer at meetings during the strikes.

Hipkins said the latest offer would give the majority of teachers a pay rise of close to $10,000 over three years.

“The new offer is worth $698 million, an increase of $129 million from the previous offer. The new offer would mean significant pay increases for their members and an offer to provide for paid meetings to discuss the offer,” Hipkins said.

“NZEI let their members down by not allowing them to consider the new offer before going on strike. They should stop the strike and allow a vote,” he said.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said the offers did not address union claims for lower class sizes and more professional time.

“The question is, will this address the crisis in education and the teacher shortage. What we asked for had children at the heart; for example more time to teach and smaller class sizes. This is something that our members now need to decide,” she said.

“The strike action still stands as the offer is not substantially different enough to give us the mandate to revoke the strike notice. We will give members the opportunity to consider the offer, any recommendations from the ERA, and next steps.”

The key elements of the new offer for teachers are:

  • 3 per cent per year over a three year term (unchanged)
  • No increase in classroom release time (unchanged)
  • A new top pay step for teachers with degrees plus professional teaching qualifications from 2020
  • Removal of the qualifications cap on progression for teachers without degrees from 2020
  • A $500 lump sum for NZEI members only

Strikes will take place in Auckland on Monday, the rest of the North Island (except Wellington) on Tuesday, Christchurch on Wednesday, the rest of the South Island on Thursday, and Wellington on Friday.

Hipkins said the Government had been working “incredibly hard” to address teachers’ concerns and would far rather be talking to them than seeing strike action.

“We think that the strike action should certainly be called off while they consider the new offer that’s been put forward.”

Hipkins said the proposed pay rise exceeded that of many other professions.

“I think that a $9500 pay rise is a pay rise that many other New Zealanders would certainly appreciate.”

Source: NZ Herald

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