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Disgruntled schoolteachers go on three-day strike


Teachers to strike again this week across New Zealand (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, May 9, 2023

Secondary schoolteachers around the country are striking from today, Tuesday, May 9, 2023 until Thursday, May 11, 2023 as pay negotiations continue to break down.

Secondary teachers across the country are ready to hold rolling strikes, starting with all of South Island today.

The recent developments

PPTA Te Wehengarua has received an offer for settlement of the secondary teachers’ collective agreement that will be considered by the national executive when it meets later this week. But the general feedback so far indicates that the latest Ministry offer is still below the cost of living increase.

“We have told the Ministry since negotiations began almost a year ago that secondary teachers need a pay increase that matches the cost of living. Unfortunately, this offer is below that, and over the term of the agreement represents a reduction in real terms,” said Chris Abercrombie, PPTA Te Wehengarua’s Acting President.

“It is clear more must be done to keep secondary teachers in classrooms in Aotearoa. We need a collective agreement that contains real improvements to both pay and conditions, however key areas are not addressed in this offer. There is not enough being done to recognise the contribution that relievers make to keep the school system going and no recognition of the need to provide equity in paid planning and marking time for part-time teachers.”

“The facilitated bargaining has been suspended to enable us to consider the offer. Unfortunately, we cannot see that this offer provides us with a clear pathway towards settlement. The action that members have voted on, which includes rolling strikes beginning on Tuesday, will continue.”

“PPTA Te Wehengarua members are committed to achieving a collective agreement that meets the needs of secondary education, in particular one that will help stem the flow of secondary teachers leaving the profession and attract people into secondary teaching.”

Mr Abercrombie said the national executive is seeking feedback from members this week to inform a decision to be made this weekend on the next steps.

‘Invest in Teachers’ campaign gaining momentum as staff shortage impacts families (Photo Supplied)

What the numbers say

According to the PPTA’s Secondary School Staffing Survey Report 2023 which summarises the findings on the teacher staffing situation in secondary and composite schools, some key indicators of the health of secondary teacher supply on March 20, 2023 were worrying according to numerous teachers as well as the parents and most importantly, for the students who are facing the problems first hand.

The average number of New Zealand-trained applicants per classroom position is 1.55, about half the previous lowest figure.

The normal experience of principals was not having a choice in selecting applicants from New Zealand because there were either none (33% for classroom jobs) or only one (31%).

One in seven advertised classroom positions had no applicants at all from within New Zealand or from overseas.

24% of positions had no suitable applicants and 28% had only one applicant suited for the post. A shocking 44% of teaching positions had no suitable New Zealand-trained applicants and 38% had only one.

One-third of advertised positions could not be filled at all and 5% were filled by Limited Authority to Teach (LAT) appointments. Appointments were being made where there were no suitable applicants.

48% of principals had to employ untrained or unqualified teachers because they could not find trained and qualified staff. A similar proportion have teachers working in non-specialist areas for the same reason, also the highest on record. The main reasons reported by principals for staff leaving the secondary teaching service were retirement and non-teaching jobs.

The number of available day relievers per school is the lowest recorded since these records began, with more than half of schools now having four or fewer day relievers available. There has been an increase in the proportion of schools cancelling or transferring classes because subject specialists could not be found.

Expectations are that it will be harder to recruit teachers both from within New Zealand and from overseas this year and to retain teachers throughout the year.

Strike schedule

Tuesday, May 9 – entire South Island

Wednesday, May 10 – Wellington, Hutt Valley, Manawatu-Whanganui, Wairarapa, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay.

Thursday, May 11 – Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Western Bay of Plenty, Central Plateau, Hauraki, Coromandel, East Coast, Counties-Manukau, Auckland, Northland.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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