The country’s primary school principals and teachers will begin meetings today over whether to accept a pay offer or take industrial action.

Up to 2000 teachers are expected to attend the first meeting of the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa members today at Manukau’s Vodafone Arena.

If members reject the Ministry of Education’s offers at nationwide meetings over the next two weeks, they will then vote on whether to hold nationwide half-day work stoppages from 1.30-4.30pm on August 15.

This comes as thousands of government workers will also vote today on industrial action, and nurses will reveal whether they plan to go ahead with proposed strikes or accept a pay offer from district health boards (DHBs).

Concerns raised by the NZEI included teacher shortages and support for additional learning needs.

Primary teachers’ collective agreement lead negotiator Liam Rutherford said strike action was up to the members.

“It is up to teachers as to whether they accept the ministry’s offer, or reject it and take industrial action.”

The ministry had offered a pay rise ranging between 2.2 and 2.6 per cent a year for three years for most primary school teachers, Rutherford said.

This was a far cry from the 16 per cent increase over two years that teachers thought necessary to address the shortage.

“What’s come from the ministry falls well short of what members felt was needed to make the teaching profession attractive.

“There are not enough teachers training, and there is anecdotal evidence of teachers and principals leaving because of the workload.

“The biggest shame of the whole thing is we have such experienced and passionate teachers who are just being burned out by workload and starting to wonder what else is out there.”

Primary principals’ collective agreement lead negotiator Louise Green said there were “significant issues” that needed to be addressed.

“After a decade of neglect under the previous government, there are significant issues facing education, including a growing teacher shortage, stress and workload problems, and under-resourcing.

“Children with additional learning needs are not getting their needs met. Principals and teachers have these issues weighing heavily on their minds as they head to their union meetings.”

Ministry of Education deputy secretary early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said, at the time, the ministry had put a fair offer on the table and would continue to negotiate in good faith.

Meanwhile, more than 4000 public service workers with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would be balloted today for their support for two 2-hour stoppages on July 9, and July 23.

The Public Service Association said it would be the first co-ordinated strike action in the public service for many years.

PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay said at both organisations staff were paid below the market rate when they started, on the expectation they would move up quickly, which did not happen.

“MBIE is insistent on a performance-based system, which we know doesn’t work and actually increases pay inequities,” Barclay said.

“Progression is slow and often unfair – and PSA members are saying ‘no more’.”

Fellow national secretary Erin Polaczuk said the Inland Revenue Department was refusing to make a pay offer to recognise increasing costs of living.

Source: NZ Herald

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