Primary and secondary teachers across the country have voted to hold a strike later this month.
The two unions organising it – New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) – are calling it a “mega-strike”. It will be the largest ever industrial action taken in New Zealand, and is expected to see 50,000 members (of both unions) take to the streets to protest proposed pay rises. The proposals (which were rejected by teachers earlier in the year) would have seen the government spend $1.2 billion increasing pay for teachers by 3% over four years. For most primary teachers, the pay increase would have resulted in a $10,000 salary increase for next year.
PPTA President Jack Boyle says it is “disappointing” negotiations have devolved to this point, but maintains strike action is necessary. “We want to work with the government to agree solutions that make teaching the attractive career it should be,” he told RNZ, and the strike seemed to be the only way they could make this happen. Boyle and other members of NZEI and PPTA also noted that the government’s proposals, whilst increasing salaries for teachers, did not address the fundamental issues facing the education sector. These include staff shortages, lack of school funding, and more.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins is unconvinced. He maintains the strike action is unnecessary. “[The latest pay offer] represents more than all of the settlements reached under the previous government put together,” he told RNZ, “It’s one of the largest pay increases on offer across the public sector and is well ahead of what most workers throughout the economy are being offered in terms of pay increase”. “New Zealanders do want to see teachers paid well, and they want to see teachers paid more,” he said, “But they also want us to get serious about the mental health crisis. They want us to fix the housing crisis. They want us to lift children out of poverty. And this government is committed to doing all of those things as well. So we’ve got to get the balance right here”. Hipkins also says that there isn’t enough money in the budget to address the other concerns brought up by teachers.
The strike will occur the day before Labour unveils its flagship ‘wellbeing budget’. The budget – the first of its kind in the world – will attempt to measure the growth of New Zealand not in terms of GDP, but in overall wellbeing. It is likely the budget will take into account strike actions, as part of determining people’s job satisfaction levels. In a press release sent to Craccum’s news desk, ACT MP (and newest member of the Craccum reviews team) David Seymour said the decision to strike that close to the big reveal was “savage AF”.