Education Minister concedes working conditions, pay 'not good enough' as teachers prepare to strike

The Minister of Education says working conditions and pay for teachers are "not good enough" as educators prepare to go on strike. 

The PPTA, which represents high-school teachers, and the New Zealand Educational Institute, which represents primary and kindergarten teachers, are combining forces to call for a better employment offer from the Ministry.

The strike will see around 50,000 teachers walk off the job on Thursday after both groups claim their concerns have not been addressed at the negotiation table.

Konini School deputy principal Kahli Oliveira told AM the issues teachers face have persisted since she began in education over 24 years ago.

"These problems have been compounded and compounded and compounded and we need a Government that is going to be brave, and that is going to look in a really forward-thinking manner, and yes it is going to cost money."

Education Minister concedes working conditions, pay 'not good enough' as teachers prepare to strike
Photo credit: AM

Visual arts teacher Paul Stevens said pay adjustments in the public sector are "not meeting inflation," which he believes is essentially a pay cut.

"They're offering a sector a pay cut when we can't adequately staff our schools," Stevens said.

"So if we're talking about a disruption of one day because of a strike, this is the only way that we are able to highlight to parents, highlight to the community, highlight to the ministry and highlight to the cabinet table that our schools are not being funded adequately."

And pay isn't the only issue. Stevens told AM teaching has changed "dramatically" in the wake of COVID-19 with more students presenting complex needs that need to be addressed, alongside a changing curriculum. 

"Outside of the classroom, there are a whole lot of other responsibilities in keeping up with the requirements of the job."

Oliveira said teacher-to-student ratios can be difficult to juggle too.

"It's not just the amount of children in a class, it's the diversity that we are trying to cover and teach and nurture that we just can't do with the resources that we've been given."

Education Minister Jan Tinetti told AM she "absolutely understands these issues" adding "it's not good enough, which is why we're trying to address it".

"I've been involved in education for a long time, it has been my life's work and I absolutely appreciate what teachers do, and I'm working really hard to get the best that we can for the teachers."

Minister Tinetti wouldn't go into the specifics of the Ministry of Education's budget for paying teachers, but said "there is a lot of work that has to go on in the background".

"There's a good faith bargaining principle that is part of this, so I can't get into that side of it."

The Education Minister said though money is a large part of the issue, working conditions are equally important.

"We want to address some of those issues around workload as well and that's what we need to also be looking at here," Tinetti said. 

"I do believe there is work to do around that area to look at ideal class sizes."

Minister Tinetti told AM host Ryan Bridge she believes there's a "big piece of work" that is needed to determine teacher-to-student ratios. 

"It does depend on individual situations and that's where it gets really complex."

Watch the full interviews above.