Budget fails to avert upcoming teacher strikes

5:12 am on 31 May 2019

Secondary teachers remain on track to start strike action next week after the Budget failed to relieve tensions between the government and teachers over their stalled collective agreement negotiations.

PPTA vice president Melanie Webber and president Jack Boyle announce that teachers have rejected the government's pay offer.

PPTA vice president Melanie Webber and president Jack Boyle, (File photo) Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Despite warnings from Education Minister Chris Hipkins that teachers would be disappointed by the Budget, there had been hopes it might include initiatives that would relieve teacher workloads, a problem that is central to their collective agreement claims.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Jack Boyle said the Budget went some way to meeting its members' demands, but only "incidentally".

Mr Boyle said the 1.8 percent increase to school operations grants and the inclusion of a scheme paying $150-per-student to schools in deciles 1 to 7 that did not request a donation would allow some schools to hire more teacher aides, which would help relieve some of the pressure on teachers.

"That's going to be really useful because there's an unmet need and that's part of the workload challenge for teachers," he said.

But overall, Mr Boyle said solutions to the impasse in secondary teachers' collective agreement negotiations were not in the Budget.

Mr Boyle said the PPTA yesterday sent schools a formal notice of strike action on Tuesday, when its members would refuse to teach students in Year 9.

He said they would refuse to teach other year groups over the next five weeks and they would also hold a series of rolling one-day strikes in the week starting 17 June.

(from left ) NZEI Te Riu Roa vice president Liam Rutherford; NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart; Russell School principal Sose Annandal.

Lynda Stuart Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

President of the teachers union New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Lynda Stuart, said apart from already-announced funding for learning support teachers, the Budget had nothing for those who went on strike earlier this week.

"It's not really the transformational change that we need to see when we've got a crisis in education," she said.

"For those people who were in the streets [on Wednesday], it doesn't change things for them at all."

However, Ms Stuart said Budget funding to help some schools stop requesting donations was a good move.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins, also State Services Minister, Leader of the House and Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Mr Hipkins said the Budget addressed many of the issues teachers had been raising including support for children with special needs, increased school funding, and training more teachers.

He said the government had consistently said that it would take time to address all of the issues in the education sector and the Budget was proof that it was.

"We're ticking things off progressively as we go along," he said.

"This year's Budget allocated funding for the learning support coordinators, it gave another significant boost to other forms of learning support that kids rely on in schools. It's allocated more money for school operations grants, more money for early childhood education.

"We were never going to do everything overnight but we're making really good progress."

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