31 May 2019

Secondary schools face five weeks of industrial action

5:47 pm on 31 May 2019

Secondary teachers are keeping the heat on the government over their stalled collective agreement negotiations with five weeks of industrial action starting on Tuesday.

Teachers and supporters march in Wellington.

Teachers and supporters march in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Members of the Post Primary Teachers Association will refuse to teach one year group of students each Tuesday for four weeks, starting with Year 9 students on 4 June.

They will also hold a week of rolling one-day strikes, starting with Auckland and Northland on 17 June and finishing with Wellington on 21 June.

The primary teachers' union has yet to announce its next move, but it has already held three strikes and further action is considered likely.

In Wellington today, parents had mixed reactions to the prospect of further industrial action.

One parent told RNZ some teachers deserved a pay rise, but others did not and the strikes were disruptive.

"I've got two secondary-aged children and they're in different years and the rolling strikes as proposed are going to cause us as parents quite some difficulty because my wife needs to days off work unpaid to do that," he said.

"Keeping on pushing this issue with rolling strikes I think is actually going to turn people against the teachers because its starting to cause personal problems with people taking time off work."

Kevin Yang said his children were old enough to look after themselves on strike days, but he hoped the union and the ministry could reach a settlement.

"Seems to me like government has already reached the limit so I'd hesitate to support the teachers. I hope they can stop there or go further in negotiations rather than just go for strikes," he said.

Kevin Wang.

Kevin Wang. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Primary school teachers and principals have held three strikes so far and it's not clear what further action they might take.

Ed Ballard said he and his wife had to arrange care for their three children during the strikes but despite the disruption he would put up with more.

"There's a point where it becomes unjustified and I think that they'll begin to lose some of the support that they're likely to have at the moment. But provided they don't take it too far, I think I'd support them for a wee while longer, definitely."

Another person supporting teachers' industrial action is the principal of Nayland College in Nelson, Daniel Wilson.

Mr Wilson said his school was losing six teachers at the end of this term, including one who was returning to Australia because New Zealand teachers' pay just isn't enough.

Ed Ballard.

Ed Ballard. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Mr Wilson said teachers needed a better deal and he was hopeful they would find a good settlement.

"I'm definitely optimistic. They'll come to an agreement in the end. But I think that the ministry and the minister do need to start listening and listening very carefully to the concerns on the ground," he said.

"I'd welcome the minister to come and visit my school any day of the week and see the fabulous job that our teachers are doing but also the vast amount of time and effort they have to put into doing their job to the very best of their ability."

The Secondary Principals Association held its annual conference in Wellington this week.

Its president, Deidre Shea, said there was some anxiety about the prospect of prolonged industrial action by members of the PPTA.

She said not all principals supported the union's action, but the association's members agreed with its aim of improving working conditions and the attractiveness of teaching as a career.

"Things need to change. People need to be attracted into the profession, they need to stay in the profession and they need to be supported to enjoy and be able to be at their best. So those three things are of genuine concern across the board with principals and teachers," she said.

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