AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Fifty thousand teachers shut down schools throughout New Zealand March 16 in a 24-hour nationwide strike demanding better pay and conditions.
The strike involved primary school and kindergarten teachers organized by the New Zealand Educational Institute and secondary school teachers organized by the Post Primary Teachers Association. It is only the second time the two unions have walked off the job on the same day, and the first time kindergarten teachers have joined them.
Picket lines, rallies and marches took place in a number of cities and towns, with the largest here, drawing up to 10,000 people.
Teachers at Otahuhu College in Auckland held a morning picket near the school before joining the march in the city. Laura Toailoa, a third-year teacher at the college, told the Militant, “The strike really made the union feel like a union.”
The teachers’ unions have rejected a government contract offer that would see a 6,000 New Zealand dollars ($3,750) pay increase over two years. In real terms the offer is a pay cut, Post Primary Teachers Association Regional Chair Paul Stevens told the Auckland rally. Inflation is currently running at 7.2%, with food prices rising 12% in the past year, the biggest increase in more than three decades. The starting annual salary for new teachers is just above minimum wage.
Teachers are also pressing for smaller class sizes, increased teaching and support staff, and more resources.