Teachers want ‘crisis’ resolved – then exacerbate it with their intransigence

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.

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