Teachers on the brink

18:10, Apr 04 2013
ACTION TIME: Teachers from the eastern suburbs leave the paid union meeting

Teachers are reaching boiling point and it's not just because of Novopay.

They will be rallying support in their communities from this week as they prepare for a nationwide march on April 13.

The move follows a series of paid union meetings around the country.

The meetings have confronted a myriad of issues, including changes to public education and the troubled pay system.

At the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre NZEI national executive representative Lynda Stuart reminded Counties Manukau unionised teachers not to let Novopay distract from the real issues.

She says the bigger picture is the threat to public education from charter schools, national standards and GERM - the global education reform movement.


"I don't particularly fancy standing up on a Tuesday afternoon speaking to 2200 people but that is how angry and upset I feel about what is happening to our quality public education.

"We need you to stand up, stand strong, stand tall and absolutely tell this Government what we want for the future of our tamariki in New Zealand."

And teachers from the eastern suburbs will do just that when they demonstrate their discontent for GERM by marching down Queen St as part of nationwide action.

There will be school-based activities on April 5 to help involve and inform the community of the risk they say Government-driven changes pose to education.

Also hot on teachers' minds is the collective bargaining which has pushed them back into paid union meetings.

Mrs Stuart, who is also the principal of May Road School in Mt Roskill, says it is the Government that has stymied negotiations.

The implementation of National Standards, Novopay and charter schools shows what low esteem the Government holds the teachers in, she says.

"I don't remember as a principal being consulted about any of the changes to do with National Standards and assessments.

"What I do remember was that the cry from Government was ‘teachers don't want to be accountable, teachers are doing a disservice, teachers and education are under-serving our students'."

The primary teachers union wants a collective agreement offer that includes career pathways, a salary increase for all teachers and no employer clawbacks that reduce terms of employment.

The possibility of teachers striking was brought to the forefront by the passing of a motion to take action if negotiations haven't progressed by May 3.

There are 675 primary teachers in the Howick area who are union members.

That represents more than 85 per cent of the teachers in eastern suburbs schools.

Long-time union activist and Willowbank Primary School teacher Maureen Agnew says strike action would be a drastic and desperate measure.

"I think it is the very last resort. We really want to try other things before we do that, because we want our communities on our side," she says.

"Hopefully the negotiations will start again and we won't need to go down that pathway."

Ms Agnew says teachers attending the union meetings left feeling "strong again".

"We are constantly being reminded that this is what we are fighting for - our children's right to quality public education," Ms Agnew says.

Eastern Courier