By: Simon Collins

Education groups are guardedly optimistic that talks may stave off more teachers’ strikes that have been signalled for this school term.

The Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA), whose members voted late last year to strike this term, has met Ministry of Education negotiators four times this year and will meet again for two days next week.

The NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) is also believed to be resuming talks after its primary teacher members went on strike twice last year and rejected the ministry’s latest offer in December.

The two unions agreed last November to take “joint actions” this term in support of their claims for better pay and conditions.

But NZEI president Lynda Stuart told the Weekend Herald she was “always optimistic” that agreement might be reached without the need for further strikes.

“I’m always optimistic that we are going to achieve an outcome that will ensure that we can attract and retain teachers into the profession,” she said.

PPTA president Jack Boyle said the two unions jointly surveyed teachers who left teaching at the end of last year about their reasons for leaving, but were not talking about joint strikes yet.

“We haven’t done any planning around any sort of convergence of industrial things,” he said.

“When our membership authorised a strike, it was on the understanding that it would be deployed if we hadn’t been able to reach a satisfactory settlement.”

A spokesman for Education Minister Chris Hipkins said Hipkins told NZEI in a meeting last month that he could not offer any more money.

“It’s going to be about how that is cut differently,” he said.

Stuart said in December that the main sticking points were now class sizes and classroom release time, rather than pay. Her union wants to cut teacher/student ratios in Years 4 to 8 from 1:29 to 1:25.

Hipkins’ spokesman said the Government could not make such a promise in pay negotiations, but was willing to discuss it through reviews which are under way of the education workforce and school governance.

A taskforce on school governance led by Bali Haque has found that primary schools get only half as much management staffing as similar-sized secondary schools, and recommends “alignment and coherence across primary and secondary schools”.

The Government has also promised $217m over four years to employ 600 learning support coordinators in schools from next year.

Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said talks were continuing.

“Our talks with the PPTA have been ongoing over the summer and we will be meeting them again next week,” she said. “At this stage, we have nothing to report regarding resumption of talks with NZEI.”

Source: NZ Herald


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