31 Jul 2023

Secondary teachers should get 14.5 percent pay rise, arbitration panel recommends

1:23 pm on 31 July 2023

If accepted by both parties the recommended settlement is likely to have knock-on effects for early childhood and primary school teachers (file image). Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

An arbitration panel says secondary teachers should get a 14.5 percent pay rise spread over three instalments.

The recommendation is expected to end a protracted pay dispute between the Ministry of Education and the Post Primary Teachers Association.

If accepted by both parties the recommended settlement is likely to have knock-on effects for early childhood and primary school teachers. Under pay parity rules, the Ministry of Education must offer any changes to teachers' unified base salary scale to primary teachers and then in turn to kindergarten teachers.

The panel recommended a six percent pay rise backdated to the start of this month, plus four percent in April next year and 3.9 percent in December next year.

"This would see base pay move by 14.5 percent by the end of the proposed collective period," the panel decision said.

The increase would shift starting pay for most new secondary teachers from $55,948 to $64,082 by the start of 2025, while pay rates for teachers at the top of the scale would increase from $90,000 to $103,085.

That appeared to be better than the pay scale recently agreed by primary teachers where the equivalent points on the pay scale would increase to $63,187 and $100,000.

The panel said the term of the new collective agreement should be three years, from 3 July 2022 to 2 July 2025.

The panel also recommended one-off payments of $5000 for all teachers, a further $1500 for PPTA members, and up to $710 to cover teaching practising certificate renewal.

The decision said the Post Primary Teachers Association had sought a pay rise totalling 17.9 percent backdated to the end of the previous collective agreement on 1 July 2022, while the Ministry of Education was offering 11.1 percent starting from 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2025.

Secondary teachers had not had a pay rise since 1 July 2021, it said.

"Undeniably, the value of their salaries has diminished significantly over that period due to annual inflation, as measured by the New Zealand Consumers Price Index (CPI) in the years to June 2022 (7.3 percent) and June 2023 (6.0 percent)," the panel said.

"How this diminution in value should be addressed in the settlement of the new STCA has been the most strongly contested issue between parties in their bargaining and in the arbitration."

The panel based its recommendation on the Household Living Price Index, which it said measured the cost of living for households and was less volatile than the Consumer Price Index.

"It also focuses on costs that would commonly be regarded as fundamental to the expenditure of teacher salaries, and it can be broken down into different household types, allowing the panel to discern the cost of living for groups with household incomes similar to teachers," the panel's decision said.

It said for households with a similar income to secondary teachers, the index had increased an average 2.74 percent a year over the past 10 years, a figure that supported a 14.5 percent increase for the period to be covered by the collective agreement.

The union had sought allowances for teachers with advanced te reo Māori knowledge, but it instead recommended a trial of 335 community liaison roles which would have a small amount of release time from other duties and $1000 payments, the panel said.

Better partnership

The arbitration panel strongly recommended the creation of a new body to improve relations between the Ministry of Education and Post Primary Teacher Association.

The panel's report said the union had complained that the ministry had not engaged in productive discussions about long-standing issues raised since the previous collective agreement was settled.

The report said timely engagement on those matters was likely to make bargaining easier.

One option was to create a standing committee with an independent chair, it said.

"We regard the establishment of such a body as a matter that should be given the highest priority by the parties and that the impending general election does not provide any impediment to the parties reaching agreement on what form that body should take," the panel's decision said.

"We suggest that the body should set "report back" dates along a timeline that will support both parties in their 2025 bargaining and minimise the risk of further industrial action."

The report said the cost of setting up and running the new organisation would be preferable to the financial and reputation cost of long-running disputes and industrial action.

The Ministry of Education and the PPTA had commented about a long-term solution to determining teachers' pay rates and minimising the need for industrial action, it said.

The panel's report said in the United Kingdom an independent organisation advised the government on English teachers' pay and conditions.

The recommendations were not binding, but provided a strong foundation to negotiations, it said.

"The panel acknowledges that any suggestions for legislative change for a similar body in New Zealand would require policy work approved by the minister and consultation prior to the presentation of any proposal to the government of the day. We also acknowledge this could be a lengthy process, but we do not consider there needs to be any delay in beginning discussions about any such proposal."

Post Primary Teachers Association acting president Chris Abercrombie said they were satisfied with the recommended settlement, and would recommend it to the union's members.

"It's not everything we asked, but it's more than the ministry were offering so we're satisfied with it," Abercrombie said.

"I think both sides had to show some compromise... we're really hopeful that the government will support it and recommend it, and then we'll be able to move forward."

Abercrombie said the union's members would vote on the offer next week if the government agreed to it.

"The Ministry of Education has recommended it to Cabinet so it's sitting with Cabinet for their decision. We will find out their decision on Wednesday. If they support it then we'll be offered a settlement on Thursday from the ministry and we'll be electronically balloting our members next week," he said.

Some of the union's members were disappointed there was not more in some areas such as management units, Abercrombie said.

"One of our big disappointments is around our cultural competency claims. So we've got some good stepping stones, 335 allowances will be created for a trial - so that's fantastic, that's good, but it's not as much as we wanted, so we're really hopeful they'll be able to work well and we'll be able to put them into our collective next time."

He expected primary school teachers would be offered the same pay rises because they were better than the increases they agreed to last month, he said.

Asked if primary teachers should thank secondary teachers for getting a better pay deal Abercrombie said "maybe a bit of a morning tea".

He hoped the recommendation for a standing committee to provide communication between the union and the ministry went ahead, he said.

"We're really hopeful that will get progressed.

"It's something that we've been interested for a long time. It's incredibly frustrating that we have to keep coming back and doing this again and again in negotiation times. It's not what teachers want to be doing, it's not what the union wants to be doing. We want a really settled environment."

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