The Government should front up and meet teachers' demands after offering students one year of free tertiary education, says National MP Judith Collins.
Hundreds of Christchurch primary school teachers abandoned their classrooms on Thursday as part of nationwide strikes, before Wellington teachers strike on Friday, wrapping up the week of one-day rolling strikes across the country.
Ms Collins believes teachers deserve a "decent pay rise", telling The AM Show on Friday the coalition Government needs to front up for teachers after it gave one year free tertiary education. She said it was unfair to make that offer when teachers aren't being paid enough.
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- How teachers' pay has fallen behind over the decades
- Christchurch primary teachers walk off the job as rolling strikes continue
"The trouble is, the teachers can read, and they can read that there's been a free bonus to all these tertiary students in their first year, and they know that there's been wastage of money."
Without mentioning Ms Collins' claim about tertiary fees, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said she agrees teachers deserve more, finding rare common ground with the National minister. She agreed with Ms Collins that there's "a real need to re-professionalise the way we talk about teachers and how they are treated".
"You need to look at how we respect people in the profession now. Teachers were once right up there. People are not valuing the professionalism that we expect from, and generally do get, from teachers," said Ms Collins.
"I think Judith is right on the point of valuing teachers," said Ms Swarbrick. "Teachers don't do this stuff for the money, they don't do it for the glory, and they don't do it for the social standing necessarily. We have to ensure that they are being respected and valued."
"If you want to look at teachers' salaries in particular, in the 1980s, [teachers' salaries were] the equivalent of a backbench MP. That's now diverged quite substantially."
Ms Swarbrick praised Ms Collins for backing a select committee inquiry into children who need learning support. She said Parliament often appears "incredibly adversarial", but behind closed doors Opposition MPs do sometimes come together to make things happen.
"There are some things we can agree on," said Ms Collins.
However, Ms Swarbrick took a swipe at Ms Collins over National's failure to address teachers' concerns while in power. She said there's been an "accumulation of a whole bunch of issues", and "decades of underfunding in the education sector".
Ms Collins defended National not addressing teachers' needs, saying the former government faced "massive battles" such as the 2008 financial crisis and the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.
The latest pay offer to primary teachers would have given them an approximate $10,000 pay rise, bringing the average salary up to about the $85,000 mark. But teachers have said it's not just about the money, and that they need more support.
The head strike negotiator for principals, Louise Green, told The AM Show in July that teaching is not seen as an attractive career path anymore, and that the industry is facing a staff shortage crisis.