Primary teachers have voted to ratify a proposed settlement that will give them pay parity with their secondary colleagues, but disappointed primary principals have rejected a settlement that was unchanged from a previously rejected offer.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said the outcome was a big win for teachers, who had campaigned alongside principals for 18 months and held three strike days – including New Zealand’s largest ever strike alongside their secondary colleagues.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted for teachers, but we made substantial progress. We’ve secured pay parity through a unified pay scale across the state schooling sector. We’ve won a significant pay increase for primary teachers. We’ve addressed longstanding barriers to pay progression for teachers with different qualifications. We’ve won eight teacher only days and a reduction in some of the more burdensome appraisal requirements.”

“We also got a commitment from government to work on the outstanding issues of wellbeing and workload – the accord will enable us to work with the government and hold them to account on these issues,” said Ms Stuart.

The Ministry of Education welcomes the vote taken by primary teachers.

“Primary teachers and principals told us that to retain and attract people into the profession and stabilise the workforce we needed to restore pay parity for teachers,” says Iona Holsted, Secretary for Education.

“We’ve listened and acted. Thirty thousand primary teachers will now benefit from significant pay increases, with maximum base salaries rising to $90,000 from July 2021.”

However, while primary teachers have won parity with their secondary counterparts, principals have rejected their offer following concerns of pay parity with secondary principal colleagues and pay relativities. Under the current offer, some principals could be paid less than some deputy principals and senior teachers.

Holsted says she is disappointed primary principals have rejected the “substantial offer” made to them and that pay parity between primary and secondary principals is a much more complex issue than it is between teachers.

“Under the Accord, we have already agreed to discuss the extent to which pay parity might be applied to principals.”

In rejecting the offer, over 1900 primary principals have walked away from an immediate $1500 payment and pay rises on 1 July of up to 13 percent for over 500 principals, she says.

“These principals are in our smaller schools of fewer than 100 students. Principals in these schools would have moved to a minimum salary of $102,898 after three years – an extra $15,000.”

In addition to these 500, over 900 principals would have moved from a current salary of between $118,863 and $128,805 to a minimum salary of between $132,376 and $142,866 after three years – about $14,000 extra.

Another 270 principals would have moved from a current salary of at least $134,428 with a minimum increase to $149,458 after three years – an extra $15,000.

“For principals of larger schools the increase after three years would have been considerably higher,” says Holsted.

But National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says one of the major concerns for primary principals is issues of relativity with what senior teachers or deputy principals will be paid under this settlement.

“Many principals will be supportive that teachers have had additional increases but are asking questions as to why they didn’t secure more favourable terms.

“Some primary principals have raised serious questions about how we incentivise people to become principals when some teachers are going to earn more money than them. There are real issues of career pathways for principals.

“There are some serious issues around pay scales and the way kāhui ako, communities of learning, works with those pay scales, and these need to be resolved,” says Kaye.

NZEI Te Riu Roa is urgently seeking a return to the negotiating table in order to resolve the principals’ issues, and in the meantime will actively consult with principal members on next steps.

The primary teachers’ new agreement will come into force from 1 July, with a three-month delay in the new terms and conditions for non-members. Teachers who were members of NZEI Te Riu Roa on 13 June 2019 will also receive a one-off pro rata payment of $1500.

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