7 Jun 2019

Principals: Pay increase still central to teacher dispute resolution

8:55 pm on 7 June 2019

Better pay offers are essential to solving the industrial stalemate between the government and teacher unions, school principals say.

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President of the Principals Federation Whetu Cormick says he is quietly optimistic talks would lead to a settlement. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

They are hopeful that yesterday's special meeting between the government and the Post Primary Teachers Association and the Educational Institute has helped to break the deadlock between the two sides.

But they warned that the government's refusal to increase the four-year $1.2 billion value of its offers to secondary teachers and to primary teachers and principals was unlikely to be acceptable the unions' members.

The government and the unions have refused to comment on their meeting, which was billed as a circuit-breaker to stalled collective agreement negotiations, other than to say constructive progress had been made.

The president of the Secondary Principals Association, Deidre Shea, said teachers and principals were hoping that the government has agreed to increase the value of its offers.

"People are still feeling very much that more needs to be offered," she said.

"There's certainly some real hope that because the talks did happen, that there will be movement."

Ms Shea said it was not clear if the PPTA's decision to cancel Tuesday's partial strike affecting Year 10 students was a sign of progress.

"I'm aware that the fact that next week's strike has been called off is likely due to the fact that you can't strike while you're engaged in negotiations and yesterday's meeting as I understand it is considered continued negotiation, so I don't know that the calling off of the strike is perhaps as positive as we might have thought," she said.

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Teachers went on strike last week in was called "unprecedented" industrial action. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The acting president of the Auckland Secondary Principals Association, Tom Webb, said pay was the big issue for secondary teachers and the government would need to improve its offer of three pay rises of three percent each.

"There'll need to be some movement in the offer that's on the table. Whether it meets the original claim by the PPTA or not, I think that probably may not reach that level, but I think there will need to be some movement on what the government's offered," he said.

The president of the Principals Federation, Whetu Cormick, said he was quietly optimistic that the talks would lead to a settlement.

He said the government appeared to be committed to finding a solution and after three one-day strikes, primary and intermediate school teachers wanted an end to the dispute too.

"I'm not sure how much more teachers can take considering people have got bills to pay themselves. I'm not sure how long school communities can hang on as well. In my own school community in South Dunedin it was very clear that the parents were concerned that their children were away from school," he said.

The School Trustees Association was not present at yesterday's meeting and its president, Lorraine Kerr, said she was hopeful the talks would lead to a settlement.

She said it would take time for the government to address problems such as high workloads that had been raised by the teacher unions in their claims.

Ms Kerr said the three strikes that had been held so far had not had a lot of impact on schools, but that would change if the dispute continued.

"They haven't been on the whole that disruptive given that parents and schools have been aware. Having said that I think if we continued with the strike action, then it would be a different story," she said.

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