Reprinted from How Melulater sees it. Melanie is a Primary School teacher who is half way through her Masters of Education in Global Education Policy. She is a member of the Labour Party and took a year off to help get them elected.
I’m going to start out by saying I really like Chris Hipkins. He knows education and he’s grown up at the knee of a great education academic. He’s passionate about our education system and I know he wants what is best. I know he advocates for us. But I know he is one of many in a Cabinet competing for money.
I also know that my colleagues are over worked, many are struggling financially, many feel their students are getting the raw end of the stick and many are wanting to bail. And if I do not see any real change by the end of 2020, I may bail too. I can’t sustain my workload forever. Already my health has suffered in the last year.
I also know this government has a healthy surplus. Finance Minister Grant Robertson talks about saving the money for a rainy day. Well Grant, the rainy day for teachers is bloody well here.
Minister Chris Hipkins claims there is no more money for teacher Collective Agreement negotiations. His MOE negotiation team keep recutting the same pie over and over again, but it will not solve the problems the teacher population currently face.
Last year our NZEI negotiators went into the Collective Agreement negotiations for primary teachers with four issues on top for teachers across New Zealand:
These issues were the claim presented to the MOE. It was a bit different than previously. For the last three negotiations figures and statements were presented. We had to fight to keep existing conditions and earned increases that equaled or were just below the rate of inflation. We needed to change how we negotiated. But the MOE could not get their head around it.
The negotiators for NZEI told the stories of thousands of teachers and why these were the issues they wanted addressed. I was told by a negotiator that they were rather disinterested in the stories and even disputed the truth of the stories.
These issues were the issues we as a membership voted as our claim in March 2018. These issues have not changed. So to hear Minister Hipkins claim a number of times that the claim has changed and that teachers don’t agree on the claim is rather annoying.
Like schools across the country have different issues that are on top for them, teachers across NZ also have issues on top for them. I put this to Minister Hipkins in a tweet thread earlier this week.
Our negotiators put a range of options on the table to address the issues above. The NZEI team expected that the MOE team would pick out some options they were willing to negotiate on. But they did not. They ignored all the suggestions put forward by the MOE team. Our NZEI team was told teachers could not have their cake and eat it too.
Now they have bunched those options together and claimed that we want all of the options and we won’t budge and it will cost $4 billion over four years to implement all of these options. Remember, we put these as a range of options to be negotiated on as to which could be implemented. We did not put these on the table as a combined must do package.
And a couple of days later I felt it important to emphasise this again.
Teachers currently feel that Minister Hipkins is no better than Hekia Parata as they do not feel he is listening to them. I’m sure Chris is listening and feeling like he is caught between a rock and a hard place – I hear the rock is Winston Peters and the hard place is Grant Robertson.
In the mean time I hear the stories of teachers struggling and those who have left the profession:
This is just a snapshot of what I am currently hearing and what I have been hearing for the last four or five years, in person and via social media.
So why have we been refusing the MOE offer?
In the meantime the Minister of Education has been talking up the MOE offer and telling all and sundry there is no more money. Mr Hipkins has made much of the idea that teachers will be increasing their wage on average by $10,000 if we accept the MOE offer. This is disingenuous, or just not accurate. And so this tweet stream below illustrates that.
I’m not holding my breath on this new step however. I feel this may disappear in the final wash.
The ethos of this post is just to say, don’t believe everything that you are hearing come from the Minister. He is a good Minister. But his hands are tied by Cabinet and he’s been given his lines. As a profession, if we want to uplift the status of our profession, we need to target the big players in Cabinet alongside Mr Hipkins.
We need to focus on the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters. Race Courses have done well under Mr Peters, but he needs to listen to Tracey Martin more – and send Tracey letters too, after all, she is the Associate Minister of Education. Grant Robertson’s mum is a teacher, so Grant should know better – let’s keep the pressure on him. Dr David Clark is not only the Minister of Health, he is also an Associate Finance Minister – so let’s apply pressure there too. Phil Twyford may be Minister of Housing and Transport, but he has a lot of sway in that Cabinet – hit him with the letters too.
Finally, the 29th of May with our mega strike with the secondary teachers offers us new leverage. Let’s not let the momentum fail after that and let’s keep the pressure on this government because we teachers are worth more.