After expelling the charter schools, Hipkins is pressed to do better on teachers’ pay

So who  do you feel  sorry for:  primary school  teachers  who  say they are  undervalued, underpaid  and  overworked?

Or Education Minister  Chris Hipkins, who is  “disappointed”  teachers are  going  on  strike, despite the government’s “strong new offer”.

Political aficionados might find some irony  in the  whole  affair. Teachers   were   desperate  for  the Labour  Party to win the  Treasury benches,   knowing it    would be a relatively  soft touch  after  nine years  of  a flinty-faced  National government.

And  Hipkins  early  in  his term  sought to cosy   up  to the teachers’ union  by  bending to  their   demand  that charter  schools  be abolished.

Now  it’s  a  stand off.

Teachers  are  striking   because the  NZEI  is demanding a  package of  proposals   which  would  cost the  government $2.5 billion.

And  Hipkins,  after   dipping  deep into the taxpayers’ pockets to the tune of  $700m,  insists  there’s  no  more  money.

What’s  the  betting  he  will  crack?

Last-ditch negotiations, which yielded an improved pay offer from the Ministry of Education, was not enough to avert the industrial action, with rolling  strikes  beginning in  Auckland.  This follows a national strike in August, and the rejection of a second offer last month.

In all this, there’s   not a word  about  raising  standards  of  education  in schools  or   extracting  commitments   from  the teachers’  union  to  lift  teaching  performance. Yet some authorities  note that while   67%  NZ Asians  in  schools  achieve UE  and European  44%, only  22% of Pasifika  and   19%  of Māori reach that  level.

Student scores in the PISA test of maths, science, and reading are now at their lowest point since testing began in 2000.

All  Hipkins  does  is  bleat  that  “NZEI let their members down by not allowing them to consider the  new offer before going on strike”.

The new offer, he says, is worth $698m, an increase of $129m from the previous offer. It means most teachers would get between $9,500 and $11,000 extra annually in their pay packets by 2020.

Still  feeling sorry  for  the teachers?

Here’s what the chief of the  Employment Relations  Authority, James Crichton  had to  say:

My prevailing  impression  is that NZEI came into the process (of facilitation)  with a  series of proposals  which taken in their totality had an air of unreality about them.  The total cost  of conceding  their proposals  was costed  at around $2.5bn. Put simply, that is  an unrealistic impost on any employer, including  the government.”

Crichton went on:

The ministry’s  offer is a  handsome and  competitive proposal in the  current  fiscal  environment and my considered  view  is that were the  NZEI’s  negotiating team not saddled with  totally  unrealistic riding  instructions, it would and  should have been accepted.”  

 His “strong” recommendation  had been  that NZEI  members should accept the package.

 Crichton  was   “genuinely  disappointed” the  facilitation  failed to avert the strike. He noted the   government is committed to working with teachers to  gradually address the  sector’s  needs.

Perhaps  the    NZEI  is    relying  on  another   dose  of   “kindness”  from the  PM,   Jacinda  Ardern,  to  resolve  the  issue.

But if she  does  apply  her   now legendary  charm   to  achieve  a solution  it  will   put  Hipkins  in a   bind.  He  knows  secondary  school  teachers   are in  the queue  and   then  others in the education  sector  will be  looking to  improve  on whatever  those who  have gone before  have extracted.

In the end  Hipkins  may  regret   the  $2bn   splashed  out  by the  coalition  government  on   a  fee-free  first  year  for  university students.

There’s an  even  more bitter  irony  in  this  wrangling.  Education should be  one  of the first  steps  out  of  child poverty—but  the members of the NZEI  seem  interested  only  in eliminating what  they  are believe are inequities in their own rewards.

2 thoughts on “After expelling the charter schools, Hipkins is pressed to do better on teachers’ pay

  1. The bullying by the unions over charter schools and teachers’ pay is one of the worst instances of misuse of power this country has ever seen – reminiscent of the boiler makers and others in the 60’s. The children suffer and so does the country.


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