Teachers to take strike action

Frustrated local primary teachers say strike action could be their best bet against factors inhibiting the continued high quality of education in the district.

A three-hour work stoppage will be held across New Zealand on August 15 and teachers and principals are now discussing whether to extend it to a full day to send an even stronger message.

From paid union meetings in Mid Canterbury and across the country over the past two weeks, primary principal and teacher members of the New Zealand Educational Institute voted to reject the disappointing Ministry of Education’s pay offers.

Principals and teachers had asked for more time to teach and lead and more support for children with additional learning needs, as well as a 16 per cent pay rise over two years.

It was hoped the pay rise could stem teacher shortages – which local schools last year said they were bearing the brunt of.

The offer sees trained teachers’ base salaries increase between 6.1 to 14.7 per cent and principals’ salaries increase between 6-11 per cent over three years.

But the majority of teachers (about 86 per cent) are being offered a pay rise ranging from about 2.2 to 2.6 per cent a year for three years.

While teachers will receive 12 minutes extra a week to work individually with children or plan and assess learning, the request to fund a Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) in every school to assist children with additional learning needs has not yet been acknowledged, NZEI said.

“Most local teachers have serious concerns regarding the current state of our profession and that there is a sense of willingness to demand a positive outcome,” Mid Canterbury Principals’ Association Vice President Rebekah Clement said.

“Remuneration, workload, stress and the recruitment of suitably qualified staff are all factors concerning us.”

NZEI will be meeting with the Ministry in further negotiations over the coming weeks to try and reach a settlement.

If the strike goes ahead, it would be the first time teachers have taken industrial action since 1994.

– By Katie Todd