Mexican stand-off over pay
August 20, 2019
Further industrial action is on the cards after a Mexican stand-off outside parliament between thousands of striking teachers and Education Minister Chris Hipkins.
Post Primary Teachers’ Association [PPTA] Wellington regional chairperson and high school science teacher Ahmad Osama said “we have a whole suite of industrial action lined up for this term until we see action [from the government]. The [industrial] actions could include more striking, or rostering home of year levels”.
Fifty-thousand teachers went on strike nationwide today and thousands of teachers, union members and parents marched on the Beehive from Civic Square in a show of solidarity for better pay and better working conditions for both primary and secondary school teachers.
The striking teachers and their supporters packed the streets and wielded signs which read “every child deserves more funding”, and “who is wearing the pants in government”. They also chanted, “When education is under attack, stand up and fight back”.
Initially, 10 MPs met the marchers upon their arrival at parliament’s forecourt. These included Green Party deputy leader Marama Davidson, and National MP Nikki Kaye. However, the number of MPs grew to over 20 over the duration of the strike.
The crowd of striking teachers and their supporters chanted for Education Minister Chris Hipkins to show, and at 1.30pm he joined the other gathered MPs on parliaments forecourt.
Hipkins said he acknowledged teachers wanted progress to be faster but he could not offer it to them.
“What I can offer is that we will continue to listen.” The crowd responded with jeers.
Teachers were demanding a 15 percent pay increase and other improvements to working conditions such as fewer administration related tasks, and less time doing reports.
A series of people spoke and showed their support for the teachers on strike outside parliament. PPTA general secretary Michael Stevenson told the crowd teachers needed change and they needed it now.
“We’ve waited too long”, he said.
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff, said something was wrong with the education system when teachers came out in such large numbers. He also said he was impressed with the solidarity shown by teachers and that if they did not do their jobs there would be no education system.
New Zealand Institute of Education senior executive member and Khandallah School principal Louise Green, said today was day three for primary teachers to be on strike, which meant three days without pay. She said she hoped the government would have listened but felt they had not.
“I’m prepared to keep on going…that means more strike action,” Green said. The institute is New Zealand’s largest education union.