'Patient' teachers ready to fight for better pay

Schools across the country will be taking turns to close early over the next two weeks as teachers meet to discuss the latest pay offer from the Ministry of Education.

If they reject the offer - between 2.2 and 2.6 percent a year over three years - they may follow their colleagues in the nursing sector and go on strike.

"I believe there's money there - I don't know where it's going to come from, that's not my job," teacher Kahli Oliveira told The AM Show on Monday.

"I just know that I'm willing to fight for what we're worth and what our profession is worth."

The New Zealand Educational Institute represents 50,000 teachers, and says they need a 16 percent boost to address difficulties in getting and retaining good teachers. Nurses want a similar boost, but have been offered about 9 percent - which is still a lot more than what the Ministry of Education is offering teachers.

"The Government needs to make a huge investment, like the nurses," said Ms Oliveira. "We've sat around, we've been patient for nine years. We've been given more jobs, we've been given more workload on top of everything else that we're doing."

National Party leader Simon Bridges told The AM Show the unions have been "emboldened" by the election of the Labour-NZ First coalition.

"They've had expectations set very high by the Government. I think we've got serious industrial unrest at the moment."

He said the NZEI's wish for double-digit percentage increases is "more than you're getting in the private sector", and teachers should find another way to address their grievances.

Simon Bridges.
Simon Bridges. Photo credit: The AM Show

Teachers didn't strike while National was in power, said Ms Oliveira, because they figured their protests would have fallen on deaf ears.

"We stood by and we didn't stand up and fight for ourselves… I don't think we had any traction. I really don't believe that we thought we could get anywhere."

In addition to voting on the pay offer, teachers will also be deciding whether to take half a day off in August to attend union meetings.