By Simon Collins

High-school teachers want a rental housing allowance of up to $100 a week in Auckland, Tauranga and Queenstown.

The Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) claim raises the stakes in the pay dispute now affecting all teachers, claiming an immediate 15 per cent pay rise worth $242 million for the country’s 25,765 secondary teachers, as well as the housing allowance.

Most of the country’s 30,000 primary and intermediate teachers are expected to strike next Wednesday over a claim for a $373m 16 per cent pay hike over two years.

The Ministry of Education has offered the primary teachers only 4 per cent over two years, plus a further 2 per cent in 2020, for teachers with at least seven years’ service who do not have extra responsibilities.

However nurses, who went on strike last month, have won pay rises worth $500m for nurses with at least seven years’ experience of 12.5 per cent over two years, plus a further 3 per cent in 2020.

Until now, all unions have opposed pay bonuses for Auckland and other high-cost areas because they are unpopular in the rest of the country.

But PPTA president Jack Boyle said high-school teachers agreed at recent stopwork meetings that the housing allowance was necessary to counter a teacher shortage which secondary school principals say is the worst on record.

“It’s not seen as the job of education collective agreements to address the housing shortages we have got across the motu [islands],” he said.

“But we certainly had to respond to that challenge which is directly affecting the ability of schools to recruit.”

The union originally discussed an allowance for all teachers in areas where the median house price exceeds seven times the top step of the trained teacher base salary scale.

Based on the top basic rate of $75,949 at the time, teachers would have got the allowance when median house prices exceeded $531,643 – in Auckland, Tauranga, Western Bay of Plenty, Thames-Coromandel, Wellington, Selwyn and Queenstown-Lakes.

That has been cut back in claims lodged with the Ministry of Education today to a rental subsidy in all areas where median rents are at least 10 per cent above the national median rent.

The allowance would pay the difference between the median rent in the area within a 2km radius of the school and 110 per cent of the national median, up to a maximum of $100 a week, and would also go to teachers in the eligible schools for the first three years of mortgage payments on their first home.

Based on June 2018 rental bond data, the national median rent is $409 a week so the allowance would be paid to teachers renting or for the first three years of buying a home in all areas with median rents above 110 per cent of that, or $450 a week.

The bond data uses council boundaries predating the 2010 Auckland merger but all Auckland areas would qualify with June median rents of $568 in North Shore, $520 in Rodney, $510 in the old Auckland City, $498 in Manukau, $496 in Waitakere, $494 in Papakura and $465 in Franklin.

Queenstown-Lakes ($551) and Tauranga ($456) would be the only qualifying areas outside Auckland.

If the allowance was calculated by territorial authority, it would be the maximum $100 a week in North Shore and Queenstown-Lakes, $70 in Rodney, $60 in Auckland City, $48 in Manukau, $46 in Waitakere, $44 in Papakura,$15 in Franklin and $6 a week in Tauranga.

However in practice the proposed formula of median rents “within a 2km radius of the school” indicates that more local rents would be used.

Only 31 per cent of secondary teachers are under age 40, but if all teachers under 40 in the qualifying areas are assumed to be renting or in their first three years paying a mortgage, the allowance would be paid to 3100 of the country’s 25,765 secondary teachers, or 12 per cent.

The cost, based on the median territorial authority rents, would be $9.5 million a year.

The secondary teachers’ current pay agreement does not expire until October, which may be after the primary teachers settle their agreement. The PPTA wants only a one-year deal so that it will negotiate again next year before the expiry of the new primary teachers’ deal, which is likely to be for two or three years.

Secondary teachers are traditionally more militant than primary teachers, but the primary teachers have a “pay parity” clause providing that any pay increases won by secondary teachers flow through to them too.

Source: NZ Herald


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