This week, members completed voting in a secret ballot and, according to primary teachers and principals’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa, voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of national rolling strikes.
This comes after members rejected a second offer from the Ministry in late September, and a national strike that was held on August 15, which saw thousands of teachers take to the streets calling for a pay increase, a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in every school to assist children with learning needs, and more time to teach and lead.
Criticism of the Ministry’s second offer included that it did not address concerns about the growing teacher shortage, time to teach and support for children with additional learning needs.
In late September, Associate Minister for Education Tracey Martin announced a draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan which included a proposal to fund Learning Support Coordinators in each school.
The plan noted that the proposed role will need funding before being implemented.
NZEI Principals' lead negotiator Louise Green said the unprecedented level of industrial action by primary teachers and principals showed the severity of the crisis in New Zealand schools.
"We're at crisis point for recruiting and retaining teachers in this country," she said
“I've had principal colleagues in tears with the stress of trying to ensure a teacher in every classroom.
“Meanwhile the huge workload and lack of resources for children with additional learning needs is driving teachers out of the profession."
Teachers' lead negotiator Liam Rutherford said while teachers and principals did not want to inconvenience their students and school communities, or lose a day's pay, they understood the importance of standing their ground to properly address the teacher crisis.
“We all know what is at stake,” he said.
“Our students deserve better, and this Government can do better - their $5.5 billion surplus confirms it," he said.
Meanwhile, NZEI president Lynda Stuart said the union and the Ministry of Education have “agreed to continue to try to seek a resolution”.
To that end, she said that NZEI and the Secretary for Education, Iona Holsted, have committed themselves fully to seeking an agreed settlement before November, when the strikes are due to commence.
In a statement, Holsted said: “following the results of the NZEI ballot, the Ministry of Education and the NZEI will urgently seek facilitated bargaining under the Employment Relations Act.
“This process will facilitate reaching settlements for primary principals and primary teachers.”
Facilitation is a statutory process under which an Authority member assists the bargaining parties.
If the Employment Relations Authority agrees to provide facilitation, the Authority member will decide on the process.
The Authority is able to make recommendations about the process the parties should use to reach agreement as well as the terms and conditions of the collective agreement, at the end of the facilitation process.
While the parties don’t have to follow these recommendations, they must consider them in good faith and cannot reject them without first considering them.
It is important to note that during facilitation, bargaining continues and employees are not prevented from using strikes.
National’s spokesperson for Education, Nikki Kaye said the Government’s surplus meant there were options available to offer pay rises to teachers.
“I believe there is huge public support for teachers getting more,” she said.
“National didn’t have the same options that Labour has, but now that New Zealand has larger surpluses we have options.
“The pay and conditions in this collective bargaining will be a major lever to resolve teacher shortages.
“If the Government can’t improve the offer it will also be making it harder to staff schools in the future.”
She added the Government needed to “adequately” plan for the strikes to ensure supervision for children on strike days.
PERFORMANCE PAY COULD FIX TEACHER CRISIS
ACT Leader David Seymour, meanwhile, says the mounting teacher crisis could be fixed by performance pay.
As strikes loom, Seymour said in a statement, "This is what happens when you have a rigid, centrally-planned wage structure. Wages can’t respond to shortages.
"Performance pay would see good teachers paid more than poor teachers. More and better graduates would be attracted to the profession.
"Every other industry pays its workers based on performance - why are teachers a special case?”
He said ACT would slash “unnecessary” welfare and bureaucracy in education and redirect that money to help pay teachers’ salaries.
"ACT would ... cut the number of bureaucrats at the Ministry of Education by half, leaving one official for each school in the country.
“That would save $108 million and deliver a $2000 - or over 3 per cent - pay rise for the average New Zealand teacher.”
Rolling strike dates
Wider Auckland region - Monday, November 12
North Island (except Auckland and Wellington) - Tuesday, November 13
Wider Christchurch region (including Ellesmere, Ashley, Mid-Canterbury, Malvern, Hurunui and Aronui Tomua Waitaha) - Wednesday, November 14
South Island (except wider Christchurch) - Thursday, November 15
Wider Wellington region - Friday, November 16