The Government needs to listen and be more balanced and respectful in the way that it handles the collective bargaining with teachers, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“The strikes, which start tomorrow, are the second round of strikes. This follows on from the strike in mid-August which was the first primary teacher strikes in 24 years. Teachers and parents need this resolved to prevent further disruption for students.
“The Government’s process for the collective bargaining for primary and secondary teachers has been long and at times disrespectful of teachers. Yesterday NZEI claimed that ministers have made misleading statements regarding the offer.
“Costing information was withheld by the Government about the offer from both NZEI and the PPTA over several months. We are now six months in, and quite rightly many teachers are questioning why it has taken so long to get to the current offer. It is too early to tell whether the current offer will lead to a settlement.
“The facilitation concluded and the strike meetings over the next week will consider the offer. The timeline for any decision for members may mean that the formal vote is not held for a number of weeks.
“It is now clear that the late offer by the Government on Thursday made it very difficult to avoid the strikes. The Government offered half a day’s pay to avoid the strike but the unions requested a full day to recognise most parents would have taken leave for the full day. The Government did not move on this which has meant we will now have some parents, particularly in Auckland, scrambling to take leave or getting adequate supervision arrangements for their children.
“NZEI has confirmed the offer leaves percentage increases of three per cent a year over three years unchanged on the base salary. There are changes to the top pay step and qualifications. However, they will not happen until 2020 which has left some teachers unhappy.
“Under National salaries increased by less but we were dealing with the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes. We know that the Government has spent billions on tertiary students and on commitments to NZ First which has constrained the amount that can be offered for teachers.
“Other groups in the public sector like the New Zealand Police have been offered more.
“The learning facilitator support for 600 teachers to help children with complex needs reflects Labour’s manifesto commitment to provide staff in every school. I have previously acknowledged the Government’s announcement on this as schools need more support for these children. However, the first tranche will not start until 2020 and there is still uncertainty about the timeline of the second tranche of providing these roles.
“The other area the Government should consider improving its offer to teachers is a commitment to reduce class sizes in primary schools. Earlier this year National made a strong commitment to reducing class sizes in primary schools. Labour talked about reducing class sizes for years in Opposition and some Labour MPs distributed election material committing to reductions but since coming into Government, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has refused to commit to reduce them. The claim has also argued for additional release time to assist with teacher workload.
“The pay and conditions in this collective bargaining will be a major lever to resolve teacher shortages. This means the stakes are high with this three year agreement. If the Government is unable to find the right salary and workload package it will also make it even harder to staff schools in the future.
“If it appears settlement is unlikely and the Government refuses to shift on salary increases then the Minister needs to consider providing greater certainty on the detail of learning facilitator roles, commit to reducing class sizes or increase release time. Parents and students need the Government not to walk away and criticise teachers but continue to keep working prevent further strikes.