The political “kindness and empathy” which the Ardern coalition government has patented as its trademark doesn’t seem to be making much headway with the teachers’ union. Which is ironic in many ways.
Latest reports say primary and intermediate teachers and principals have “overwhelmingly” rejected the government’s latest pay offer , on the grounds, it’s said, it will not fix the industry’s staffing “crisis”.
About 30,000 New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZIE) union members voted on what was the third round of offers, in a secret online ballot. NZIE president Lynda Stuart said the message from members was that the offers did not do enough to fix the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.
“The big concern for members was that the offers had nothing that would give teachers more time to teach or principals time to lead.”
The NZEI did not release the voting figures but obviously – being teachers – they are very quick at counting.
The latest rejection comes after members brushed aside two previous offers and began strike action.
“From the beginning of this process we’ve been clear that to attract and retain teachers we need to be paid fairly and have the time and support to ensure every child gets the best possible education. While the latest offer for teachers included a total salary increase of approximately $9500 – $11,000 over three years, it failed to address the important issues of time and class size, which underpin the crisis in education. Disappointingly, we end this year without the necessary movement from the government, and with still not enough to meet the needs of children, schools and teachers.“
Stuart said the union had informed the Ministry of Education and Education Minister Chris Hipkins of the outcome of the ballots and would seek further negotiations immediately, requesting a new offer by early in Term 1 next year to bring back to members.
It’s a hard nut for Hipkins to crack, but of course Labour’s own election themes and subsequent rhetoric (“nine years of neglect under the previous government”) raised expectations high in the party’s union supporters, among whom the most enthusiastic were the teachers unions. Not surprisingly they are looking for some real payback.
The $698m the government has put on the table is apparently chickenfeed..
The NZEI insists it wants an offer which will ensure children will have “the best possible education”. So would another $100m achieve that? Or $500M?
As an aside, Point of Order notes that the $698m package was described by the Employment Relations Authority as “handsome and competitive”.
The NZEI contends the government’s offer has nothing which would give teachers more time to teach or principals time to lead.
This would have a less hollow ring if the teachers at the same time were matching their statements with a commitment to overcome the gap in education achievement between, say, students of European and Maori ethnicities.
The Ministry of Education has embarked on addressing workload concerns by spending an extra $500m for learning support, providing $40m to boost teacher supply in the short to medium term, developing a long-term Education Workforce strategy, and rolling out an Education Professional’s Well-being Framework.
Any dispassionate observer might conclude the intransigence of the NZEI’s members is now stoking the “crisis” in education, the same crisis they went on strike to resolve. And the irony for Chris Hipkins, who had all the answers when education spokesman in Opposition, is that he finds himself up the creek without a paddle.