The teachers’ strike

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, July 4th, 2018 - 56 comments
Categories: education, greens, jobs, labour, national, Nikki Kaye, nz first, same old national, schools, tertiary education, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

Another important sector is attempting wages and conditions catchup.  And National is continuing to try and rewrite history.

This time it is the teachers sector.  I can speak with a certain amount of authority here because I have three teachers in my immediate family.  It is very clear that the profession is in crisis, especially in Auckland.

The reasons?  A large part is the last Government’s insistence on data collection rather than actually teaching our kids.  Running test after test and entering data into the computer is not what teachers signed up for.  They want to teach, not test.

And the job is more complex.  There are an increasing number of young children with significant problems caused essentially by poverty.  Sleeping in a car or not having eaten breakfast are not conducive to receiving quality education.

And Auckland’s house prices in particular, where your average teacher has no chance of buying even a modest house, have added to the problems.  Most schools will take whoever shows up to a job interview.

Add to this the drift in salaries and conditions that have occurred over a number of years and the causes of the industrial action are clear.

The election of the Labour-Greens-NZ First Government has released a lot of pent up pressure.  Workers now realise they are dealing with human beings, not cost accountants determined to minimise the power of the state and the cost of anything.

But National is attempting to blame the Government for the proposed strike.  For instance in this tweet which received the perfect response from Dianne Khan.

Kaye’s press release said this:

The Government must better manage negotiations and reach a pay agreement with primary teachers and principals to prevent disruption to kids’ learning, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“The announcement today that primary school teachers and principals have voted overwhelmingly to strike in August after rejecting the Government’s pay offer is yet another example of Labour causing an escalation in industrial action since it came into office by promising more than it can deliver.

“If it goes ahead, it will be the first primary teachers’ strike since 1994. It will mean massive disruption to kids’ learning and to parents who may have to take time off work to ensure their kids are looked after while their teachers are on strike.

“Labour built up high expectations around pay rises and working conditions for teachers during the election campaign. Now Labour is in Government, it can’t follow through.

“National increased teacher salaries by around 17 per cent over our time in Government, all while dealing with the Global Financial Crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes.

“Labour has no excuse for not being able to follow through on its promise to significantly increase teacher salaries, given the billions of dollars more that it has to work with.

“This is simply a case of Labour prioritising tertiary students over primary school teachers and students. It can’t say there’s no money left when it chose to spend $2.8 billion on a fees-free policy that saw next to no increase in university participation.

Like everything else that comes from National’s PR machine the claims need to be parsed.  Inflation increased 15.1% during National’s reign so if the teacher salary increase is correct it is marginal.  And Auckland’s house prices increased by 94% during the same period.  And the job requirements, particularly the data capture required by the National Standards policy, grew considerably.

The last big pay increase that teachers had was in 2001-02, under the last Labour Government.  Strike action was being talked about last October.

This article points out that the OECD has said our teachers are paid 10 per cent less than other New Zealanders with similar levels of skills and experience, and New Zealand is ranked 19th in the OECD for teachers’ pay based on purchasing power.

As for the interest free loans for tertiary students this is what you do when you decide not to load up young people with debt just through getting a tertiary education.

Industrial turmoil is what happens when you suppress wages, load up extra obligations on workers, allow house prices to spike, and stand by as the number of children living in poverty increases dramatically.  This is not a case of the Government not managing expectations, it is a case of teachers having after a decade of indifference deciding they have had enough.

56 comments on “The teachers’ strike”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    What magic wand did Key/English wave that meant Teachers werent interested in their pay and conditions over the last 9 years, especially the last 4 ?

    Is it really equitable that after settling for some chin tickles for many years now the ‘hungry teachers’ wants to ‘catch up’ for the previous inaction because …. something

    Surely having professional union leaders mean they understand slipping behind and having a laissez faire approach to bargaining means you future case is weakened not strengthened.

  2. Ad 2

    This government has got plenty of money to pay them.
    So pay them.

    • dukeofurl 2.1

      Boom year finances dont always last for governments, so i dont know about plenty of money meme- theres a hell of lot that needs fixing ahead of ‘just pay them- my attitude is you didnt care for last couple of years so its too late now.

      • Ad 2.1.1

        Medium term budget forecasts are fine. Tax take is increasing with better enforcement legislation.

        Fix them all with more pay:

        nurses, doctors, students, teachers, beneficiaries, public servants under living wage.
        Use all instruments to lift society.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.2

        A government always has plenty of money because they can, and should, print all the money that they need.

        And the teachers did care.

        • Tricledrown 2.1.2.1

          DTB the govt can print money but is not allowed to we are the tiny little economy at the bottom of the earth if we decided to that the big banks would isolate our economy because we aren’t
          Playing by their rules.
          And the International banking cartels rule!

          • Draco T Bastard 2.1.2.1.1

            DTB the govt can print money but is not allowed to

            Of course it’s allowed to – it’s sovereign.

            the big banks would isolate our economy because we aren’t
            Playing by their rules.

            Yeah, it may come as a surprise but we’re not actually ruled by the banks no matter how much they like to think that they are.

            Which means that we need to disabuse them of that notion of theirs rather than kowtowing to it.

  3. marty mars 3

    Yes tough for teachers in Auckland AND everywhere else.

    The gnats legacy exposed – itchy spots and infection.

    • Michelle 3.1

      The gnats undermined the teachers for 9 years they dumbed down the occupation and made it so unappealing so no one would want to teach. I think they wanted to replace teachers with robots and computer screens. It doesn’t surprise me that today many youth are socially inept too much cellphones and other devices they don’t have to talk properly or look a person in the eye when they can just push buttons all day and they have access to material we never dreamed of.

  4. And they have turned down more than was offered Nurses.

    • dukeofurl 4.1

      Its become like Dancing with the Stars.. slow slow quick quick slow…

      But instead.. offer.. counter offer…negotiate…final offer…refuse… no change…plan strike…negotiate small change….accept.

    • Mel 4.2

      The offer was approximately 2% per year for 3 years. Pretty pathetic after years of sliding behind. Female-dominated professions need equity. Let’s stand together and demand it rather than debate who ‘deserves’ it more. WE ALL DO. 🙂

  5. Anne 5

    Teachers have indicated they will also be seeking a significant catch up in salaries and job conditions after a decade of neglect.

    And therein lies the real problem of course.

    In the early stages, I had a lot of sympathy for the nurses but that ‘sympathy’ is starting to rapidly wane. To my knowledge, they have not publicly acknowledged the reality that the previous government wilfully ignored them for 9 years and the new government has been left to carry the can for that prolonged malfeasance. Nor have they acknowledged that, in such circumstances, it is fiscally irresponsible for any government to hand over everything they want immediately instead of in responsible steps. It seems to me that this government has made a generous offer to the nurses, with more to come in the reasonably near future.

    It is also my impression there is a cabal of vociferous activists within the nurses union who are leading the rest along a pathway which only plays into the hands of the very politicians who put them in this unsatisfactory predicament in the first place.

    I fear the teachers union will head down the same road with the same consequences.

    • Puckish Rogue 5.1

      Thats quite a well-reasoned, logical argument Anne, I have to admit that when looking at this thread I thought it would be all 100% positive support for this action

    • mickysavage 5.2

      Thanks Anne.

      I have heard there is some dissent within the ranks.

      Nurses to the right are now happy to demand catch ups. Nurses to the left continue to advocate for better conditions.

      This may be why the public messaging is so united.

    • marty mars 5.3

      I’d rather they fought for better wages and conditions than not – it is all priorities. Are roads MORE important than nurses or teachers pay and conditions? Not in my world.

    • Why the hell does the NZNO need to publicly state that they rolled over and accepted poor wage claims under the national Governments, everyone Knows. Every State sector grouping was under the thumb. Education actually did better in bargaining than Health to the point that Nurses who had parity with Teachers in 2008 are now considerably behind and the latest offers further widened the gap. i’m damned sure my job is considerable more difficult than a Kindergarten teacher and remuneration should reflect that.

      • Anne 5.4.1

        Why the hell does the NZNO need to publicly state that they rolled over and accepted poor wage claims under the national Governments, everyone Knows.

        That’s where I suspect you might be wrong. Everyone doesn’t know.

        Of course the state sector groups involved will know but out there in voter land… that’s another story. By and large, voter-landers are not political animals like most of us who comment here, and therefore not well informed. They’re suckers for Nat. misrepresentation and false spin.

      • dukeofurl 5.4.2

        “everyone Knows.”

        Except they dont, were nurses like fast food workers who could be replaced by migrant workers after a days training?

        Did you decide enough was enough when Mps got a $5000 pay rise ? or was it all Ok when English was hinting at tax cuts instead.

        Despite Using angry fonts it still means you just rolled over back in 2015, good luck for what has been achieved now , but dont expect sympathy for the petulant child attitude over what ‘was missed out in 2015’

        • Psych nurse 5.4.2.1

          Enough was enough when our DHB managers awarded thenselves us to 45% as reward for keeping everyone else to 1% and it will be just the same this time. The number of nurses and the allocated 520 million and 9% rise over 3 years just does not add up. If you want to gauge the mood of Nurses have a look at the Nurse Florence facebook page.

      • Fran 5.4.3

        I am pretty sure your job is not more difficult than a kindy teachers job. Perhaps if you spent a week doing what they do you would not be so flippant. Your job is important and difficult but so is theirs.

        It is upsetting when people unnecessarily denigrate others to make their point. Early childhood is a very arduous area to work in and the long-term consequences if you get it wrong are what give you your clients.

        You are both important, you both work hard and you both deserve decent pay.

    • The Chairman 5.5

      Sorry, Anne, but it seems your rapidly waning sympathy is based on flawed assumptions.

      Nurses don’t expect all their demands to be fully met immediately and it has been widely acknowledged by nurses that this has reached boiling point due to the shortcomings of previous years. Hence, they have overwhelming public support. Moreover, they accept the new Government has been left to carry the can.

      Therefore, the problem now is the new Government’s willingness to address these shortcomings.

      The current Government knew long before coming into power there were many issues to address, yet they opted to take a similar fiscal stance as National (which is largely to blame for the problems) with their Budget Responsibility Rules, stating they believed they have got the balance about right.

      The looming industrial action is a consequence of that miscalculated belief.

      To date, what the current Government has offered has been vastly insufficient. Leaving concerns for patient safety remaining.

      Is a Government that fails to address concerns for patient safety due to self-imposed fiscal constraints being responsible?

      Has a Government that turns around and says they’ve got no money for nurses concerns (patient safety being one of them) after it has stumped up a billion dollars for foreign aid and committed a blank cheque for tackling M. bovis got its fiscal priorities right?

      Additionally, it’s the current Government’s failure to amicably settle this dispute that is playing into the hands of the opposition.

      • Anne 5.5.1

        Let me repeat what I said @ 5:

        To my knowledge, they have not publicly acknowledged the reality that the previous government wilfully ignored them for 9 years and the new government has been left to carry the can for that prolonged malfeasance. Nor have they acknowledged that, in such circumstances, it is fiscally irresponsible for any government to hand over everything they want immediately instead of in responsible steps. It seems to me that this government has made a generous offer to the nurses, with more to come in the reasonably near future.

        Note I said to my knowledge. You are effectively saying they have acknowledged the reality etc. That is NOT how I have read their response to the government’s generous offer. In fact the media reports have inferred the opposite. If they are incorrect why has a nurses’ union spokesperson not publicly come out and said so?

        As for the rest of your claims, it looks to me like they are your opinions being expressed as facts. For instance you are putting words into the govt’s mouth when you claim they knew this and knew that long before coming to power What you have chosen to ignore is that when the “books” were opened after the election, they found the fiscal situation was far from rosy which they could not have known prior to attaining power.

        Perhaps my comment of “rapidly waning sympathy” was going a wee bit far, but your bias in one direction is, imo, a lot worse.

        • The Chairman 5.5.1.1

          Sorry, Anne, but once again your assumptions are flawed.

          One of the main criticisms of the Government’s Budget Responsibility Rules (which was widely touted) was it would leave them fiscally constrained. Leaving them unable to sufficiently resolve the many issues that they themselves have highlighted.

          So they were well aware of the potential risk of taking such a position.

          Moreover, coupled with ruling out income tax increases, they knew that the risk would be subsequently higher if there was lower than forecast growth and surpluses – as revealed in the PREFU.  

          To which Jacinda responded, “we believe we can deliver on what our policy intentions are with what is available.”

          Nevertheless, the current books are showing the surplus is almost half a billion more than was originally forecast. Moreover, Government debt is tracking better than expected (see link below). So there is extra fiscal scope for the Government to consider improving wage offers.

          As for your knowledge, I’m surprised you have come to such a conclusion as it’s the opposite to what I’ve seen reported.

          Here’s a quick example. NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne announced nurses had overwhelmingly rejected the pay offer, saying “the past decade of underfunding of DHBs has taken a heavy toll on nurses and their ability to provide safe patient care”.

          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/104795905/nurses-union-to-announce-result-of-latest-pay-offer-from-dhbs

          Hence I was rather taken back by your position. Moreover, astounded you would publicly express your waning sympathy (somewhat undermining nurses) given your admitted lack of knowledge on the matter.

          Additionally, your impression (thus choice of framing) there is a cabal of vociferous activists leading nurses down the wrong path is also incorrect. The last offer (not the latest one) was strongly voted against. And the latest offer (which we won’t know the outcome till next week) is expected (by some commentators) to be a close call. So while there may be some vociferous activists, nurses have shown they are largely united on this.

          • Anne 5.5.1.1.1

            I won’t waste my time wading through your diatribe but I did note;

            …I was rather taken back by your position. Moreover, astounded you would publicly express your waning sympathy (somewhat undermining nurses) given your admitted lack of knowledge on the matter.

            What over-stated tripe.

            A little less arrogance from Mr Bloody Know-All would not go amiss. 🙄

            • The Chairman 5.5.1.1.1.1

              And here I was expecting you to thank me for taking the time to correct your woefully ignorant position.

              Guess expecting an apology from you for misrepresenting (thus somewhat undermining) nurses is also out of the question?

  6. millsy 6

    The strike is only for half a day in August. Plenty of time for the parents to make alternate arrangements for their kids. And only the second time in 25 years. Kinda deflates the Right’s claim that teachers are militant strike mongers who would down tools at the drop the hat and cause chaos in our classrooms.

  7. bwaghorn 7

    How many teachers truly are against national standards.
    I ask as at the excellent country school run by a truly great principal that wag Jr attends they have decided to keep national standards as the way they measure.
    I not kidding about this school being amazing they leave no kid behind.

    • patricia bremner 7.1

      bwaghorn, sadly all NZ education has fallen behind international standards on every measure over the last ten years. So change is needed. Some are fooled by false measures which have no international currency.

    • SPC 7.2

      And many schools forced to adopt NS will move back to far better measurement systems they were using before.

    • mickysavage 7.3

      My perception is that the schools that are struggling the most are in the poor urban areas. To them dealing with child poverty is more important than running repeated tests.

  8. patricia bremner 8

    “I am damn sure my job is harder than any Kindergarten teacher’s”

    This is what the right want, sectors at each others throats. You are not fighting teachers for pay, you are fighting the system.

    Teacher Unions are strongly supported, 90% or more in my day. Nursing?? Not sure.
    What is the current Union %??

  9. Herodotus 9

    Just a little bit of train spotting
    Remember that for every $1 thatbthe teacher receive in a pay rise they will be paying 30% back as their tax obligation, plus the govt will save on any WFF payments as the they progress up the scale of reducing benefits.
    So the net cost to the country will be 70% of the total cost of the increase.

    • bwaghorn 9.1

      Add to that the fact they will spend most of any gain then the gov gets 15% gst and the money is in the system circulating .
      I was once told that once a $1 is spent three times it has all returned to the government . Not sure if true but sound plausible.

      • dukeofurl 9.1.1

        Domestic rent doesnt attract GST, neither does paying a mortgage.

        • Herodotus 9.1.1.1

          Domestic rent could be impacted by reducing an accomodation supplement, thus saving the govt some money.
          Also I believe that bwaghorn is referring to the increase, and in that case most of that would be spent on living expenses, which would attract GST. Only savings would not attract GST. Rent would not be increased just because 1 or 2 sectors of the economy achieved (deserved) pay increases.

          • dukeofurl 9.1.1.1.1

            teachers getting accom supplements ? Seriously
            The average age of secondary teachers is in early 50s, most would be on top scales.

    • mickysavage 9.2

      Agreed. Trickle up works a lot better than trickle down.

  10. Bryan 10

    One tires of the hysteria about the exceptionalism of teachers and their need for a significant catch up. They are in bargaining so we expect them to talk up their claims.
    Oh aah – a half day strike that will really collapse the economy. Let them bargain away. If their surrogates want to talk up their chances all good but there are many more pressing needs. Alas there are no giant buckets of money to throw at the fire that is the self-importance of the teaching profession.

    • mickysavage 10.1

      But there were buckets of dosh to hand out to those who are already wealthy. Why is there a difference?

    • Gabby 10.2

      You reckon they don’t want anyone else to get pay increases Broiny?

  11. CHCOff 11

    Teacher loads and stresses would be significantly reduced if their schools are surrounded by thriving sports clubs and resulting participatory community spirit.

    NZ1st!

  12. Pat 12

    I have a daughter who is a primary school teacher and if what she tells me is representative the biggest problem teachers face is not so much pay (Auckland may be an exception) but rather the chronic lack of professional support for the increasing number of behaviourally challenged and disabled students they are expected to cope with WHILE teaching…..provide that support and watch the numbers leaving decrease.

    • the other pat 12.1

      i would agree…..i have had the exact same message from two teacher friends…..one remarked……” i am a teacher not a psychologist”

  13. Doogs 13

    Comments on this thread show the woeful ignorance and half understood concepts about what teaching young children is all about.

    This job is quite clearly one of the most complex and demanding occupations anyone can participate in. I can already hear the knockers – what about a brain surgeon, what about a quantum physics engineer, what about a psychiatrist??? These people spend years accumulating a vast amount of knowledge to enable them to operate efficiently and deal with things or people one at a time.

    Look, it would take me a book to explain the many subtle, nuanced and varied processes a teacher goes through every minute of every day, and no two days are the same. They are not dealing with widgets, they are dealing with complex and demanding young humans who are often unpredictable and very needy.

    Every day, every teacher is handling 25 or so different personalities who all need personal attention for their learning needs. These needs are are always, within a class, very wide ranging. You will never get a class of 7 year olds who are all developed to the 7 year old level in terms of their social, emotional and educational stages.

    Can’t stop now and say more. I’ve got a class of 6 year olds waiting for me to guide them through their day. More later . . .

    • SPC 13.1

      Because, unlike individual children, all people making comments on this thread can be summed up in the same way.

      • Doogs 13.1.1

        FFS, who taught you to read SPC?
        Go back to my first sentence – did I say “All . .”, did I say “Everyone . .”, NO
        I said “Comments on this thread . . .”
        Of course, in your eagerness to trounce my words you tripped over yourself and missed the nuance expressed in the sentence.
        Plus you didn’t bother to respond to anything I said.
        Sounds like trolling? Could be . .

  14. SPC 14

    The Labour government should add to the pay agreements for teachers and nurses assistance with home purchase in Auckland.

    Thus for all teachers and nurses in Auckland (yet to own property) matching savings for a home, dollar for dollar up to $10,000 pa.

    Thus $100,000 saved over 5 years – 20% deposit on a $600,000 property.

    Matching savings dollar for dollar would encourage them to save as fast as possible ( by sharing accommodation with others – which is the more efficient use of housing resources).

    • Gabby 14.1

      No, they should make cheap rental accommodation available, like there used to be to encourage people into rural schools.

      • SPC 14.1.1

        And cheap rental accommodation would encourage them to do what, stay in this accommodation and any money they saved up used to buy a rental property to let out to someone else ….

  15. georgecom 15

    details of the nursing pay offer can be found here
    https://www.nzno.org.nz/Portals/0/Files/Documents/Groups/Health%20Sectors/2018-07-03%20Summary%20of%20proposed%20new%20MECA%20Offer.pdf

    the pay offer includes pay increases and aditional/new pay steps added to the existing pay scales. increases range from 9 to 13 percent.

    over the past number of years nursing and teaching have had pay increases that match inflation. not much ahead of, not much behind. so pay has increased to match cost of living increases, accepting that house prices have sky rocketed in Auckland and some other cities the past 4 odd years which has made it more difficult for nurses/teachers to get into the housing market.

    Interestingly, on a qualification like for like basis, 3 year teaching degree versus 3 year registered nursing degree, nurses are financially better off year on year for the first five years and the pay offer above (if accepted) will put them about 8 percent better off in the 7th year.

    After 9 years of the health system being systematically under funded year on year it’s unsurprising nurses are pissed off with their working conditions and under staffing. Much of the present anger is about lean staffing in our hospitals as a result of National not funding DHB’s actual costs year on year on year. The pay settlement being offered does actually start to address that with a 2 percent immediate increase in Nursing staffing. Several more years of fully funded budgets are required to put the money back which national took out of the health sector.

    After 9 years of evidence free (as opposed to evidence based) education changes by National, like national standards, charter schools, and the under resourcing of education, ece funding freezes, failing to match special education funding to needs, it’s unsurprising that teachers are pissed off as well.

    Fixing up the crap the government has inherited will take time.

    • The Chairman 15.1

      “Fixing up the crap the government has inherited will take time.”

      Indeed. Especially as they’ve taken a similar fiscal stance as National (which is largely to blame for the problems) with their Budget Responsibility Rules.

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