An estimated 811,000 students from preschool to year 13 will be affected by the biggest teachers’ strike ever planned.
Teachers announced their industrial action on Thursday and on Friday set about explaining why they’re taking the unprecedented strike.
Next week’s teacher strike will be a mega one – with kindergarten, primary, secondary and area school teachers teaming up with some principals to march for better pay and working conditions.
It’s estimated around 800,000 students and more than 2000 schools will be affected.
“We have got members from six collective agreements coming together,” said New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) president Mark Potter.
Leaders from across the teaching sector gathered in Tauranga on Friday to share their concerns about pay and working conditions, and also plan for major industrial action set for next Thursday.
“I see the worry and despair as kindergarten teachers grapple with no sick leave, or a mortgage to pay, or no relievers so they go to work sick anyway,” said kindergarten head teacher Virginia Oakly.
High school teachers were there too.
“Secondary education is in crisis. The secondary teachers voted overwhelmingly to reject the Government’s offer, we’ve been in negotiations since May last year,” said Tania Rae, from the Post Primary Teachers’ Association.
And primary principals had their say.
“We see disparities in staffing, in curriculum, in management, and in well-being support for our primary principals,” said Lynda Stuart, from the Primary Principals’ Collective Agreement.
Education Minister Jan Tinetti said she’s disappointed in the breakdown in communication but has been assured the ministry is focused on reaching settlements for teachers and principals that meet their concerns.
Here’s an example of what’s been rejected – a $4000 salary increase for trained primary teachers was offered from December last year, then a further 3 percent or $2000 from December this year. They’d also get a one-off payment of $500 and five hours per term of release time.
Teachers say the offers don’t match inflation or address working conditions.
“We can’t afford not to invest. If we don’t, then we run the risk of having an education system that really will go into decline,” Potter said.
And unless there’s a major intervention in the negotiations they’ll make their expectations loud and clear to the Government next week.