By: Simon Collins

Teachers who are going on strike again from today say they were forced to because a revised Government offer came through too late to rearrange planned meetings.

About 30,000 teachers belonging to the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) are striking today in Auckland, on Tuesday in the rest of the North Island (except Wellington), on Wednesday in Christchurch, on Thursday in the rest of the South Island and on Friday in Wellington.

About 464,000 students at 1943 primary and intermediate schools will either stay home or, in some cases, will be supervised by after-school programmes that are stepping up to run all day during the strike.

This morning about 50 teachers and supporters are at a street corner in central Auckland demanding better pay and conditions.

Nz Educational Insitute president Lynda Stuart joined teachers from Newton Central School at the corner of Ponsonby Rd and Karangahape Rd.

Dozens of other street corner rallies are taking place around Auckland today. Teachers in other regions will strike later this week.

The Newton Central group has been crossing the streets around the four corners of the intersection waving flags and placards.

All those who spoke to the Herald said the Government’s latest $700 million offer was still not enough.

Jo McKendrey, a Newton Central deputy principal who turned 50 today, said schools needed more teachers, better pay and more funding for students who need learning support.

“We want to attract more teachers to the profession. We are really desperate for teachers,” she said.

“We actually need to make it attractive with a pay increase. It’s getting harder and harder to live and work in Auckland.”

The teachers are meeting at 10am in venues around Auckland to debate the Government’s latest offer.

Stuart said the talks, which began last Monday, dragged on longer than planned.

“The intention for facilitation was for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” she said.

“The ministry asked if we would do Thursday, which we did. The offer came late on Thursday.”

Eileen Gilmour would get a 39 per cent pay rise, from $59,621 now to $82,992 by 2020, under the Ministry of Education’s latest offer. Photo / Alan Gibson

The institute had already booked venues for meetings around the country at 10am on each strike day, and Stuart said: “We couldn’t guarantee we would have teachers back in school by 12pm.”

“You can think about the traffic in Auckland, and when you have some rural and isolated areas, you have issues there,” she said.

“If you have parents dropping off children at 12pm, we have to be sure we will have teachers there.”

The revised ministry offer stuck to its previous offer of a 3 per cent pay rise each year for three years, lifting most teachers’ base pay by 9.3 per cent by November 2020.

For the average primary teacher on $72,900, that represents an extra $6780 a year, or $130 a week, by 2020.

The latest offer

Thursday’s new offer added three more sweeteners:

  • Lifting the maximum salary for teachers who trained before degrees became required for teaching by four steps on the pay scale, lifting pay for long-serving staff like Tauranga teacher Eileen Gilmour by 39 per cent, from $59,621 to $82,992, by 2020.
  • Creating an extra step at the top of the salary scale from 2020, lifting the top of the basic scale by 12.6 per cent, from $75,949 to $85,481, by 2020. About a third of teachers are on the top step and would get this increase.
  • An immediate one-off $500 payment to all NZEI primary and intermediate teachers.

Crichton has recommended that teachers should accept the offer, describing it as “a handsome and competitive proposal in the current fiscal environment”.

“My prevailing impression of this facilitation is that NZEI came into the process with a series of proposals which taken in their totality had an air of unreality about them. The total cost of conceding their proposals was costed at around $2.5 billion,” he said.

“By contrast, the Ministry of Education’s final offer, comprising their best offer prior to facilitation and an additional package arranged during the facilitation, is costed at around $700m.”

However, Stuart said the ministry had still not offered anything on two key union claims – for more time to prepare for lessons outside classes, and better staff/student ratios.

She said teachers would discuss the offer at the strike meetings but would not vote on it until an electronic ballot was held two weeks after the strikes.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said the strike would cause widespread disruption for parents, who might well look at the salary increases that have been offered to teachers and think “enough is enough”.

He said public sentiment could turn against teachers at some point if the disruptions become too much.

Fa’afili Iosua Esera, principal of decile one Māngere school Sutton Park, said many parents at his school could not afford to take a day off to look after their children during the strike.

“It was disappointing that they didn’t really notify the members about the offer,” he said.

He had decided against letting Sutton Park after-school’s service open all day because they would not have enough staff to cope if many students turned up. So the school will simply close for the day.

But Parenting Place chief executive Greg Fleming, who has a 9-year-old child at a higher-decile primary school, said he supported the teachers.

“Along with nurses, it’s an important profession in the country and we have been underpaying them for generations,” he said.

School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr said: “I know for a fact that people can get better paid jobs outside of the profession, so why wouldn’t you support a strong increase for teachers?”

Source: NZ Herald


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