Government needs to consider raising debt ceiling to stop strikes - Teachers union

  • 14/07/2018

The head of the teachers union wants the Government to consider raising the debt ceiling to stop strikes.

Teachers will be walking off the job for three hours in August in their first strike in 24 years, following the first nurses' strike in 30 years on July 12.

NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) President Lynda Stuart told Newshub Nation the Government should reconsider its Budget Responsibility Rules, which cap the country's debt at 20 percent of GDP, as a possible way to afford all the new pay deals being negotiated.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) isn't convinced.

"Channelling the Minister of Finance, I have to say that this debt ceiling is a really important one," EMA chief executive Kim Campbell told host Lisa Owen.

"We don't know what sits around the corner, economically."

Mr Campbell said New Zealand has enjoyed a long period of "industrial harmony" recently, but that could change with new employment relations legislation currently going through Parliament.

Ms Stuart said teachers are considering increasing their strike from a half day to a full day, after overwhelmingly rejecting the offer from the Ministry of Education.

Cee Payne, from the NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO), said she couldn't give much more information about the current state of bargaining between nurses and DHBs, but would not rule out further strike action.

"We will be considering whether that's what our members want to do, that will be a decision our members make," she said.

Ms Stuart and Ms Payne agreed that both sectors are desperately in need of more money for pay increases after a decade of underfunding.

Health Minister David Clark said there's no more money available for the nurses' pay deal, but Ms Payne is sceptical.

"I don't believe there's no more money and I actually think that nurses have told the public how bad it is and made this invisible problem visible and something needs to be done about it," she said.