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Secondary school teachers ramp up strike activity, and get paid while doing it

In brief
  • Secondary school teachers are still striking, but primary school teachers accept a new contract.
  • Teachers continue to be paid through rolling strikes.
  • Parents and students bear the brunt of constant disruptions.
  • Universities report fewer students interested in becoming teachers. 

Secondary school teachers reject latest offer 

Secondary school teachers reject the latest offer. Rolling strikes are scheduled for the rest of term 2.

Secondary school teachers have been in contract negotiations with the Government for close to a year. Strikes have been going on for around three months. 

The union’s work-to-rule strategy appears designed to capitalise on an employee-friendly law change by the Labour government, in 2018, which allows for full pay in the event of a “partial strike”. (This writer doesn’t personally see the wisdom of that change.)

Labour officials have been criticised by National and in the media over teachers pay. In 1976 teachers made around $12,370. Backbench MPs were paid around $14,000. In 2023 a top-earning secondary school teacher is paid roughly $90,000 while rookie backbench MPs get $163,000 a year.

Secondary school teachers ramp up strike activity, and get paid while doing it - Centrist
Fewer people these days are hitting the books in hopes of becoming teachers.

Primary school teachers accept latest offer

Most primary school teachers represented by education union NZ Education Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI) have accepted the Government’s latest offer

The deal includes: 

  • minimum 18.3 percent pay increase over 2023 and 2024,
  • beginner teachers pay increase over two years will be as much as 28%. They will earn between $65,735 and $73,102 (currently making between $51,358 and $61,794), 
  • raise will result in top salaried teachers earning between $101,135 and $106,470 (currently making between $85,490 and $90,000),
  • a lump sum payment of $3000 (plus an extra $1500 for union members), 
  • increased time with no classes for tasks like report writing,
  • increased allowances for various other matters, such as mileage, certification costs and Immersion Teaching.

Note: teachers also receive a 3% annual contribution to their retirement plan. 

This settlement follows the largest education strike in New Zealand’s history, with more than 50,000 primary, secondary and kindergarten teachers joining the picket line.

The strike action by primary teachers will cease immediately, but the new conditions won’t take effect until secondary schools teachers, represented by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA), reach their own agreement.

Not as many people training to become teachers

Universities have reported a drop in the number of people studying to become a teacher, with 600 fewer primary students, and around 65 fewer secondary students enrolled, compared to 2022.

While obviously not impartial, PPTA Te Wehengarua acting president Chris Abercrombie said the secondary teacher shortage will become more widespread and deep-seated unless a collective agreement settlement, with adequate improvements to pay and conditions, is reached.

Half of new principals (in their first or second year) surveyed (by the NZEI union) reportedly planned to leave in the next five years. It’s worth being mindful of the source here.

Constant disruptions, regardless of who is to blame, lead to poor results

Parents are fed up with how much school New Zealand kids are missing because of the continual strikes.

Journalist Patrick Gower called union strike leaders  “desperately cynical”. 

“Look at the way they’re lining this up coming into NCEA,” he said.

High school students have missed a lot of school over the last three years, from COVID lockdowns, to floods and weather related school closures, scheduled teacher-only days,  increased numbers of sick students and ongoing strikes. 

Academic achievement and attendance have drastically declined.

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