Primary teachers and principals have overwhelmingly rejected the latest offers from the Ministry of Education to settle their collective agreements.
The New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart said teachers and principals are united in their commitment to get improved pay, time and support for learning needs.
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"We will be going straight back to talk to the Government with that message - that it's time to get really serious about giving us time to teach and lead, and time to take some real steps to make teaching a viable long-term career choice."
"The solution is in the Government's hands. We would all prefer to be in our schools focussed on teaching and learning, but members have sent a very clear message that they want to see change now. That's why our next step is discussions with government to see how we can progress," Stuart said.
Paid union meetings will take place in the second week of term 2 (May 6 - 10). If no progress is made, there is a proposal that members vote to take strike action by "working to rule" from May 15 until a national strike day on May 29.
"Working to rule" means only working within 8am - 5pm, Monday to Friday, with no work taking place outside of these hours.
Teacher leader Margie Askin-Jarden from Christchurch said teachers showed every day and in the most extreme circumstances that they prioritised the care and learning of children.
"But the profession truly is at breaking point. We cannot continue to hold a broken system together because in the end the collateral damage is not just us, it is our children and their learning," Askin-Jarden said in a statement released by NZEI.
The Government's response
The Ministry of Education responded to the NZEI's latest rejection, highlighting more than 30,000 primary teachers "would have received a 3 percent pay rise every year for three years".
Ellen MacGregor-Reid, deputy-secretary for early learning and student achievement, said primary teachers were offered the option to either bring forward access to the new top pay step by 12 months, or have extra classroom release time.
"The first option would have seen 9,700 primary teachers (around 30 percent) get $6,973 more in their pay after 12 months, increasing to almost $10,000 (an annual salary of $85,481) after 24 months."
The second option, she added, was for "10 hours of additional classroom release time for the majority of teachers, every year for three years".
As for primary principals, MacGregor-Reid said the option offered was for at least 3 percent pay rises every year for three years, along with additional classroom release time for over 600 principals of smaller schools (up to 100 students).
MacGregor-Reid said the ministry will continue to negotiate with the NZEI "over how the almost $700 million available to settle the primary teachers' and principals' collectives is best apportioned, and to discuss how other aspects of their claims may be considered over time".
She said the total cost of the revised Ministry of Education offer is $698 million over four years, which is $129 million more than the previous offer made in September 2018.