On the Picket Line

Teachers in New Zealand strike over pay, conditions

By Mike Tucker
September 3, 2018

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A 24-hour strike by almost 30,000 teachers Aug. 15 closed most of this country’s primary and intermediate schools. The teachers’ union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, is in contract negotiations with the government over pay and working conditions.

Around 10,000 teachers and supporters marched and rallied in central Auckland and thousands more in other cities and towns. It was the first strike by teachers in 24 years.

“We need more funding for special learning needs, to increase wages, to reduce class sizes, and to allow more noncontact time,” Auckland teacher Diana Bebich told the Militant at the rally.

“At present we get only one hour a week free from class to do planning and other work,” she said. “Also, there are not enough teachers, so we often have to care for other classes as well as our own.” The teachers are seeking a 16 percent pay increase over two years and a reduction in class sizes.

Many here marched with their own homemade placards and banners. “Teaching shouldn’t be a debt sentence,” read one. “We work 60 plus and get paid jack,” said another. Many students carried signs supporting the teachers.

A group of young construction workers on a building site stopped work to hold up signs on the sidewalk in solidarity as the teachers marched by, getting a big cheer in response. Many others lined the main street to show support.