By: Simon Collins
Primary school teachers will hold crucial stopwork meetings next month which may either settle their pay dispute or lead to further strikes.
Their union, the NZ Educational Institute, has scheduled 247 meetings from Kaitaia to Invercargill in the week of March 18-22.
A spokesman said the meetings “are being staggered to avoid as much as possible any disruption to teaching and learning”. The union website says all schools will stay open.
“Your school must remain open during paid union meetings, so schools and NZEI will make arrangements to make sure that schools don’t need to close,” it says.
“In some cases this may mean some union members need to stay at school. Deciding who needs to stay behind should be the members’ choice, not the employer’s.”
The meetings follow two one-day national strikes last year in support of the union’s claimsfor a 16 per cent pay rise over two years, more classroom release time to prepare lessons, and smaller class sizes in Years 4 to 8 where schools are funded for only one teacher for every 29 students – a worse ratio than for both younger and older students.
The Ministry of Education’s last public offer was a 9 per cent pay rise over three years plus an extra step in the pay scale that would take the pay rise to 12.6 per cent over three years for the top third of teachers.
NZEI president Lynda Stuart said in December that the main sticking points were now class sizes and classroom release time, rather than pay.
Ministry and NZEI negotiators met on Tuesday and Wednesday this week and will meet again next Wednesday, February 27, to pursue a potential deal that could be put to teachers at the stopwork meetings next month.
The NZEI website says members are entitled to two paid hours off work to attend the stopwork meetings, including travel time to and from the meetings.
“We try to keep our meetings to one hour – this gives you 30 minutes either side to get to and from work,” it says.
Berhampore School principal Mark Potter, a member of the NZEI negotiating team, says in a video on the website that principals “who are voicing worries and concerns” about how to manage the stopwork meetings should talk to other principals or to the union.
Meanwhile, secondary teachers are still in mediation with the ministry over their claims, which include an immediate 15 per cent pay rise and a housing allowance for teachers renting their homes in high-cost cities such as Auckland, Tauranga and Queenstown.
Mediation took place on two days last week and on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and will continue on March 7-8.
Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the ministry “resumed collective agreement negotiations for primary teachers and principals with NZEI Te Riu Roa this week through mediated bargaining and we will be meeting them again next week”.
“Our talks with the PPTA have been ongoing over the summer, and we will be meeting them again in a fortnight.”
Source: NZ Herald