In March, NZEI Te Riu Roa formally launched their campaign, Kua Tae Te Wā/It's Time.
This was followed up with the release of the results of a survey, jointly commissioned by NZEI and PPTA, which showed strong public support for a pay rise for teachers.
And in a historic twist, Jack Boyle, president of the secondary teachers union, PPTA, was also in attendance at the launch.
Lynda Stuart, president of NZEI, noted during the launch that neither union had been present at the launch of the other’s collective bargaining campaign before.
Boyle says the two unions experienced overlaps in needs, including an inability to get “sufficient, highly trained, registered, motivated people coming into the profession”.
“We’re doing a bunch of firsts actually, which is, I think, really powerful because at the end of the day, we’re all educators, and the difficulties that we’re facing in the education sector, which are multiple, they’ve got kind of equal impact,” he says.
“I think the general view from the public and community is that teachers are teachers, and while we have different collective agreements because of the different contexts that we work in, if you come back to that, teachers are teachers, and education is education, so why wouldn’t we be working together,” Boyle adds.
NZEI Matua Takawaenga Laures Park says the two unions had been working together for some time now.
“At least over the last 18 months ... we’ve been deliberately working with PPTA, because we’re education sector unions and actually we should work together in this whole exercise, and some of the agreements that are actually coming up for discussion involve both of us,” she explains.
While the PPTA has not yet put forward a claim for this year’s round of collective bargaining, NZEI has.
Park says the theme would be that 'it’s time'.
“It’s time to ... value [teachers] for the time to teach, the time to lead and the time to learn and support the students in the classrooms.”
Along with these claims, NZEI is seeking a pay rise of 16 per cent over two years.
And it seems they have strong support from the community, with 83 per cent of surveyed New Zealanders believing teachers need a pay rise, according to a survey commissioned by both unions and conducted in March.
Of those, 91 per cent said they support at least a ‘moderate’ pay rise and 82 per cent agree that a pay rise will improve teacher numbers and address shortages.
Boyle says based on his own experience working in schools, the results of the survey weren’t a surprise.
“Actually, parents, whānau, hapu, iwi, the wider community, third party stakeholders that sit around and engage with schools and teachers, really do value the work that teachers do, so it wasn’t surprising at all.”
He adds the Government should take the survey results into account.
“Obviously we can’t prioritise budgetary processes for the Government in terms of the actual function, but ... we’ve had a release of some survey findings which were jointly sponsored, which showed that a representative sample of New Zealand agree that teacher salaries should be significantly improved.”
Park says despite recent chatter from the Government about funding black holes and lower than expected coffers, NZEI remained hopeful for change.
“We’ve heard all the things that have been said, but we know that the issues are not new issues and that there’s going to be quite a lot of changes that are necessary. So we’re still hopeful.”