8 Apr 2019

Primary teachers to announce today if a third strike on the cards

8:10 am on 8 April 2019

The primary teachers' union will announce this morning whether it has resolved its year-long pay dispute with the Education Ministry or further strike action is on the cards.

Families and children were out in force on Queen Street to support teachers on strike.

Families and children were out in force on Queen Street to support teachers on strike. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Teachers and principals voted last week on offers the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) union says differ little from those they have previously rejected. The government has insisted it will not increase the value of its offers any further.

The teachers have walked out of classrooms twice since August to pursue their demands for a pay rise, smaller class sizes and more resources.

In November they went on strike after turning down an improved pay offer from the Ministry of Education.

That had included an increase to most teachers' pay by 9 percent over three years, a new top of the pay scale from 2020, an a $500 lump sum for union members only. It increased spending by $129 million, taking the offer to almost $700 million over four years.

A rejection of the latest offer would set the stage for further strike action in the year-long collective contract dispute.

Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said he had talked to other principals and he wouldn't be surprised if the teachers turned down the latest offer.

He said teachers were "crying out for more pay", while the latest offer of 15 minutes extra release time appeared not to be enough.

"I don't know what teachers are going to say ... but I've been meeting with principals up and down the country over the last few weeks, and it is clear that principals want to move on.

"Obviously our offer is somewhat different to what the teachers have been offered and some of the principals have been telling me that their teachers want a significant pay jolt.

"So there's a bit of a tension at the moment; we know we've got a supply crisis in some of our areas such as Auckland and Queenstown and other areas across the country where we're having to fill vacancies with overseas trained teachers and we're really worried what this means for the future of our workforce.

"I know that some of our teachers have been thinking just about themselves at the moment, about getting a pay rise; our colleagues in Auckland have other challenges, they'll be thinking about the future -what does this mean for teachers in the future.

"I won't be surprised if the offer is rejected and we move to another strike.

"But I know teachers won't be taking that decision ... lightly at all, they'll be thinking about the bigger issue."

Mr Crock said under the offer a beginner teacher in New Zealand would move over three years from a starting pay of about $48,000 to $56,000 - but in Tasmania the starting salary was $68,000.

Last month secondary school teachers called off a nation-wide strike due to the Christchurch terror attacks and said it would decide its next steps after the April school holidays.

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