National | Public Interest Journalism

Kua hōhā! - Teachers take to streets this week over work conditions

Kura Kaupapa and wharekura kaiako will be among the 50,000 teachers and principals taking strike action this week.

Some 30,000 NZEI Te Riu Roa members last week rejected a second offer from the Ministry of Education to settle their collective bargaining agreement by joining their secondary school colleagues from the PPTA.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori a Rohe o Māngere tumuaki Lucy Te Moana says the offer presented isn't satisfactory to teachers and principals.

"Kua hōhā! Kua tae mai te wā me tū ngātahi mātou ngā tumuaki me ngā kaiako hei ārahi i tēnei kaupapa."
(We're fed up! It's time now for principals and teachers to stand together and take action on this issue.)

Area school teachers have not yet received a second offer and have joined the strike to attempt to make progress with their negotiations.

Not just pay issue

Teachers and principals want the government to increase staffing and funding to schools and kindergartens, and improve pay offers so more people will stay people in the teaching profession.

NZEI president Mark Potter says the pay component of the offer didn't match the cost of living increases members faced but that was only part of the issue. He said funding, staffing levels, student-teacher ratios and sick leave were major sticking points.

“We all want the best for our students but, without changes to the system, we can’t give it to them. This affects tamariki because teachers’ working conditions are children’s learning conditions.”

Te Moana says underfunding not only affects teachers' abilities to provide learning resources and decorate the classrooms but also means schools struggle to recruit specialist staff to assist students.

Struggling for staff

"I ētahi wā kua kore e āhei ki te tiki he kāiāwhina hei tangata rauemi ki roto i aua akomanga mō ngā tamariki e hiahia ana ki tērā tūmomo āwhina, kaua i ngā mea whanonga kino, he whanonga ako. He āhua hōhā tērā. He uaua ki te kimi."
(Sometimes we can't go out and get support or resource teachers to help with the students who need that support. I'm not talking about students with bad behaviour, I'm talking about those who need help with their learning behaviours. It's frustrating. They're really difficult to find.)

She says the cost of living increases, particularly in Auckland, are making hard it hard for schools to retain existing staff members.

"He uaua ki ētahi o ngā kaiako me ngā kaiāwhina hoki ki te kimi whare hei hoko, hei noho noa iho. He nui rawa nō ngā utu, kāore e tāea. Ētahi kua hoki ki te wā kāinga nō te mea he iti ake te reti i reira i ērā i Tāmaki. Kei te tino aroha ki a rātou."
(It's difficult for teachers and our support staff as well to buy houses here, let alone rent. It's just too expensive, it's impossible. We've had some return to their homes because the rent and costs are much more affordable compared to here in Auckland.)

The strike is planned for Thursday this week. However, the Ministry of Education is hoping to meet union leaders on Wednesday in the hopes of reaching an agreement and avoiding large-scale industrial action.

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air

Public Interest Journalism