50,000 New Zealand teachers shut the schools down, win higher pay

By Patrick Brown
July 22, 2019

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — After flexing their muscles in a national strike at the end of May, New Zealand teachers at government-run primary and secondary schools voted to approve a new three-year contract that included pay increases of 3 percent a year. An agreement on “pay parity” will bring the wages of primary (elementary school) teachers into line with teachers at high schools, raising their annual base rate by 14,500 New Zealand dollars ($9,620). Both primary teachers, organized in the New Zealand Educational Institute, and secondary school teachers in the Post-Primary Teachers Association approved the agreement.

The workers had previously rejected several contract proposals over the last eight months. On May 29 the two unions joined in a 50,000-strong one-day strike that closed schools across the country. After that action — and the threat of further stoppages — the Labour Party-led government anted up an extra NZ$271 million dollars to fund its increased pay offer.

Auckland teachers told the Militant their fight against growing workloads goes hand in hand with the wages issue. “I am seeing new teachers coming in and saying I can’t do this, the demands are too great,” said Kylee Williams. “I am a teacher, I can’t also be a social worker, counselor and mum to hundreds.”

These workload issues are supposed to be taken up in ongoing negotiations, according to an agreement signed June 14 that notes “growing demands” on teachers. The accord was approved by the members of both unions.