Education Minister Chris Hipkins believes teachers' strike 'unjustified'

Chris Hipkins believes it would be unjustified for teachers to strike again.  

The Education Minister has been in negotiations with the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) over the last week, and further discussions are expected with NZEI, the primary school teachers union. 

"We are happy to talk to them about how we can reconfigure [the offers] to meet their needs but the ability of Government to continue to add to the offer is constrained," he told The AM Show on Tuesday. 

"I don't think a strike is justified - but ultimately that's a matter for them." 

Primary school teachers and principals voted to reject the Ministry of Education's latest pay offer last month, the third that had been offered to them in 2018. 

NZEI President Lynda Stuart said at the time the most recent offer did not do enough to address the problems faced by teachers in the classroom.

"While the latest offer for teachers included a total salary increase of approximately $9500 - $11,000 over three years, it failed to address the important issues of time and class size, which underpin the crisis in education."

Secondary teachers also rejected the Government's offer in November.  It included a pay rise of 9 percent over the next three years, with a significantly higher pay rate for teachers that hold diplomas. 

But like primary teachers, secondary teachers are calling for more support in schools for children with special needs, reduced workloads, smaller class sizes and better resources. 

"I've always said from the beginning of these negotiations that teachers are raising a number of issues that are really important and that we need to work through, and not all of them relate to pay," Mr Hipkins said. 

"In terms of whether they strike, of course that's going to depend on how well the bargaining goes over the next week or two."

Primary school teachers are not ruling out teaming up with secondary schools for a mega strike, after the Ministry of Education's third offer was rejected by primary school teachers. 

After first taking nationwide strike action in August and then participating in rolling strikes across the country in November, primary school teachers and principals might strike again, according to NZEI.

Mr Hipkins said he's confident the Government can successfully negotiate a deal with teachers and avoid industrial action. 

"I'm confident that we're putting forward a very good deal - it's the biggest they've been offered in over a decade and we're committed to addressing all the issues they're raising."

Iona Holsted, Secretary of Education, says the Government is working towards addressing teachers' concerns by including an extra $500 million for learning support and $40 million to boost teacher supply in the short to medium term.

The ministry also plans to develop a long-term education workforce strategy; work with a joint workforce to identify administrative tasks that can be reduced; and roll out a programme for education professionals' wellbeing.