Education

Teachers reject further pay offers

Both primary and secondary school teachers and principals have rejected another of the Government’s pay offers, with further industrial action looming in the new year.

Primary school teacher union NZEI and secondary teacher union PPTA both announced their members’ rejection of their respective third offers on Wednesday.

PPTA has also been authorised by its members to carry out a single day of industrial action in term one.

NZEI is consulting with its members on possible next steps, which could involve further strikes – or a super-strike with PPTA – but after a one-day national strike earlier this year, followed by a week of regional rolling strikes, it’s possible primary teachers and principals will be considering some type of work to rule.

Meanwhile, the two unions have joined forces, following a meeting between the two executives a couple of weeks ago. NZEI and PPTA have committed to campaigning together, and working together on common issues, where possible.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said members “overwhelmingly” rejected the offer. While PPTA head Jack Boyle said the rejection of the ministry’s third offer came hot on the heels of an overwhelming rejection of the state’s second offer.

“When we met with teachers over the last few weeks, the message they gave was incredibly consistent. We need to see a reset of teachers’ terms and conditions of work to address the teacher shortages and workload challenges. This offer doesn’t do that.”

Both unions said New Zealand was in the midst of a teacher shortage crisis, and more needed to be done to attract and retain teachers.

Time with students and class sizes had also not been adequately addressed in the two offers, Stuart and Boyle said.

National Party education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said parents and families would feel uneasy going into the holidays, knowing further disruption was on the cards for next year.

“Both the primary and secondary education sectors have a raft of issues that they have raised in their claims which have not been addressed including recruitment and retention issues,” she said.

These issues needed to be resolved to avoid any further impact on students.

NZEI’s negotiating team was seeking further negotiation with the Ministry of Education, while PPTA would enter mediation next week.

NZEI has already gone through mediation, which did not produce an outcome, despite a recommendation from the Employment Relations Authority to accept the third offer.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins was frustrated following the failed mediation, which led into a week of rolling strikes, but on Wednesday he said there was no point in being frustrated.

The ministry and the Government was ready to go back to the negotiating table immediately, and work through the summer to get the issues sorted, he said.

But Hipkins said class sizes and time with students were not part of the collective agreement or negotiations, so these issues needed to be worked through using other channels.

If teachers were happy with the pay rise being offered, that was a step in the right direction, according to the Government. Then the parties could focus on the other issues outside of the collective negotiations.

Until now, it seemed the unions were arguing that higher pay would lead to attracting and retaining teachers, which would help lower class sizes and workloads.

But there was a sense that message was changing, with Stuart saying the latest offer to primary teachers and principals included a total salary increase of approximately $9500 - $11,000 over three years. But it failed to address the important issues of time and class size, which underpin the crisis in education, she said.

All parties, on both sides, say they want to avoid further industrial action, and work to find a resolution before school goes back next year.

But it seems communication between the unions and the Government needs to improve before that will happen.

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