By: Luke Kirkness

The public school system will be shut down on Wednesday, May 29, after primary and secondary school teachers voted to strike.

It will be the largest industrial action by New Zealand teachers and affect the education of almost 800,000 students nationwide.

The Ministry of Education is seeking an urgent return to talks to avoid the strike. But the Government has indicated it will not budge on a $1.2 billion offer previously offered to teachers.

Should teachers and principals take the offer, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said they would be in the country’s top bracket of pay earners.

The offer of $1.2 billion over four years – which was rejected by teachers – would lift pay and improve working conditions.

It would include pay rises of 3 per cent a year for three years and an extra top grade which would give many teachers effective pay rises of 12 per cent over three years.

“The pay on offer will put the majority of New Zealand teachers, be they primary or secondary school teachers, into the top 20 per cent of New Zealand income earners,” Hipkins said.

“I think that’s a sign that this Government does take teachers seriously, we do really value the work that they are doing, we’re willing to offer them quite hefty pay rises, pay rises that will put them into the top brackets of income earners.

“Almost all principals will end up in the top 10 per cent of income earners as a result of the pay offer that’s currently being discussed.”

Fifty-thousand members across the primary teachers’ NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) and the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) will take part in the strike.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said teachers will continue to make a stand until the Government prioritises the education crisis.

“Teachers have spoken, they want the government to find a solution, now. Our children cannot wait and neither can our teachers,” she said.

“We know we have enormous support from parents and we ask all New Zealanders to support us in our fight for the future of education in New Zealand.

“Giving teachers time to teach and to lead, and ensuring teaching is a viable long-term career choice, is essential if children are to get the teaching and learning they deserve.”

The offer is the largest teachers have had in over a decade and is one of the largest pay increases on offer across the public sector, Hipkins said.

He said the pay offer would result in an extra $10,000 a year for primary school teachers with secondary teachers earning slightly less.

“It’s important we sit around the negotiating table and work this out, nothing is going to be achieved by going on strike,” he said.

“We’re never going to be able to solve every problem overnight, these problems have been over a decade in the making.

“Teachers have got high expectations of this Government and that’s fine, I’m happy to live up to those expectations as long as they’re reasonable.”

The door remains open for the unions to speak with the Government but Hipkins said they have to be patient as there is no room left in the budget for extra pay.

He said they’d like to go back into facilitated mediation with primary school teachers and facilitated bargaining with secondary school teachers.

Context box

When: Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

What: Primary and secondary school teachers to take part in the first all-schools combined strike.

Who: State and integrated schools nationwide. Almost 800,000 students to be impacted.

Why: Teachers are seeking better pay and conditions than a $1.2 billion offer over four years from the Government.

Source: NZ Herald


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