Teacher unions are warning of likely strikes to seek pay rises costing "hundreds of millions of dollars", including an extra allowance for teaching in areas of expensive housing such as Auckland.

Primary and early childhood teachers in the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) agreed in Rotorua this morning to hold paid union meetings in the first term of next year to finalise claims for what executive member Liam Rutherford described as a "seismic shift" in pay rates when their current agreements expire next May and June.

Secondary teachers in the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) are also expected to vote in Wellington this afternoon to hold paid union meetings in the first term and to prepare financially for industrial action when their agreement expires next October.

A background paper for PPTA delegates says the top of the basic pay scale needs to jump by 14.5 per cent, from $75,949 to $86,967, to restore top teachers to the same relativity of 81 per cent above the median income of all wage and salary earners that they achieved after their last big pay rise in 2001-02.

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It says the pay rise and a reduced workload, particularly for middle managers such as department heads and deans, are needed to overcome severe teacher shortages in high-cost areas such as Auckland and in subjects such as maths and te reo Maori.

"The last settlement [in 2015] cost the Government $30 million to $40 million extra in secondary teacher remuneration each year," the PPTA paper says.

"Pay increases of considerably more than those achieved in the last three rounds, as well as extra non-contact time and other conditions improvements, would make the cost of this claim significantly higher - into the hundreds of millions per year.

"PPTA has achieved wins of this magnitude before, but only after considerable industrial action, including strikes.

"We will need a strong membership commitment to achieving these aims and a willingness to undertake significant industrial action."

NZEI general secretary Paul Goulter also warned his members: "We will most likely be looking down the barrel of industrial action."

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"Today we need to commit to taking on the biggest industrial fight in our professional lifetimes," he told them.

As well as a general pay increase, the PPTA paper proposes "a mechanism to address supply issues in areas where the median house price exceeds seven times the top step of the trained teacher base salary scale, or where the school is in a hard to staff district".
Based on the current top basic rate of $75,949, teachers would get an extra allowance when median house prices exceed $531,643.

Latest Quotable Value median house prices exceed that level in Queenstown-Lakes ($856,250), Auckland ($825,000), Wellington City ($636,000), Tauranga ($609,750), Thames-Coromandel ($545,000), Western Bay of Plenty ($540,250) and Selwyn District on
the edge of Christchurch ($537,000).

The first four cities would still get the allowance even if the top basic teacher's salary jumped to $86,967, lifting the house price trigger to $608,769.

PPTA president Jack Boyle said the extra allowance would not be a permanent "Auckland loading" similar to one that applies to public service jobs in London - a differential unions have resisted here to be fair to all workers. If house prices fell and basic teacher salaries rose, Auckland might not need the allowance in the future.

He said the actual level of the allowance would need to be realistic.

The PPTA has calculated that it would need to be $70,000 a year to fully compensate for
Auckland house prices.

"There is absolutely no way that that's going to happen," Boyle said.

But equally, he said, it would have to be a lot more than the "pittance" of $2500 a year, which the Ministry of Education already pays teachers in 24 high schools in hard-to-staff rural areas - currently Waikato, South Waikato, South Taranaki, Tararua, Kaikoura, Buller, Grey, Westland and Southland Districts.

A voluntary bonding scheme also pays up to $17,500 to beginner teachers who teach for three to five years in decile 1 and other hard-to-staff schools. Education Minister Nikki Kaye decided just before the election to extend this to beginner teachers in all schools in Auckland from next year.

"That is a positive step, so we are seeing a shift, it's just not far enough," Boyle said.

He said teachers' salaries had risen more slowly than median wages since 2008 because
of tough public service rules keeping pay rises at or below increases in consumer prices - rules dating from a blowout in the Budget deficit after the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes.

Both teacher unions appear to have decided that, with the Budget now in surplus, it's catch-up time.

What you think

Herald readers told us whether or not they think teachers should get a 14.5 per cent pay rise.

"They certainly deserve more than politicians who got a hefty increase recently when their workload and qualifications required are so much less than teachers." - Scotty Rodgers
 
"Definitely think they deserve one. I love kids, and have always enjoyed interacting with them. But having to spend 5 days a week, having to cope with all the behaviour problems that arise in a classroom, and also stay enthusiastic about imparting knowledge to them, they deserve to earn much more than they currently earn. And no. None of my friends or family are part of the education system. So I am unbiased in my views." - Anonymous
 
"My view is that teachers certainly do deserve an increase in pay, I don't know if 14% is perhaps a bit high though, maybe more like 6-8%... What's more interesting is how Jacinda would respond to this. She said emphatically "there'll be no strikes" under her new labour policy, but also they haven't allowed much room for movement in their budget for new expenses like this... hence Stephen Joyce's $11 billion hole. Or do they just cut education function in other areas? Hot question methinks." - Roy
 
"I believe teachers urgently need a pay rise if this profession is to attract high calibre young professionals. It is a demanding and important job and NZ should look at other countries which value education and teachers are well paid. This is particularly true for Primary teachers who often have multiple degrees and qualifications. The future of society depends on the strength of our education system and the quality of our teachers. Their pay rate at present is shameful." - Mary Cleland

"Absolutely.... they like health and police have been scape goats for successive governments for the last 20 plus years. Governments have successfully pitted them against the general public. Making the education sector look like they are anti education. I think they should strike indefinitely until they get what they need." - Geoff Emson
 
"If they want pay levels like this they should be subject to performance measurements. Nearly every other job has some performance measure and if you dont perform you are subject to performance management or even loss of job. How many teachers are ever managed for failing our kids." - Harold Forrest
 
"I totally support an increase in teachers salary. I am an exteacher now retired. Most teachers work horrendous hours, weekends and holidays which the public has no idea the time they put in." - Gage Latell

"Absolutely they are underpaid and underated!!!" - Gabrielle Rowland
 
"They certainly deserve a pay rise but 14.5% sounds an excessive demand- be more sympathetic if they accepted performance based pay! Good teachers are invaluable, mediocre ones probably not worth what they are paid now." - Anonymous

"Where's the discussion on performance or productivity improvements or efficiencies or commitment to innovation, or rationalisation of resources to provide better outcomes for children's learning, all the things that private sector employees have to table, debate and address to justify pay increases. I value teachers and what they do and the commitment they make to our children but unionised collective bargaining for this group of professionals is out dated an effectual, and is firmly locking them into past inflexible practices as an industry group." - Matt Gould
 
"Some numbers for you. As a long serving teacher my top-of-scale pay has recently increased to NZ$80,000. Equivalent Australian teachers earn over NZ$100,000. The Act Party stated that teachers should average a NZ$20,000 increase. Currently the average age of teachers is 57 I am told. Ask any Principal and the current shortage and future shortage is real."  - Nick
 
"Here we go again. What makes teachers think they are worth that amount of money. When the inflation rate has been down in low single digits it is impossible to justify. Perhaps they need  to look at the efficiencies.  They already get many benefits." - Ross
 
"I support the teachers. I also would like to see the nurses getting the same deal. We also have had little movement in our pay for years and as a experienced nurse with a degree and several post grad certs it seems wrong that I get $32 hr. If housing cost in Auckland come into the mix nurses should also receive a benefit for working in Auckland." -  Peter
 
"They should be highly paid as they are teaching the next generation which is one of the most important jobs on the planet. It's crucial to the success of any society to have excellent and well paid teachers. Not many people are going to work for less money than if they were working in the private sector. It's an incredibly difficult job and teachers have been unpaid for far too long." - J Nicholas
 
"Yes. They do deserve a pay rise. Especially if you pay $8 million to one man who does not really do much and did not found the company himself. Teachers generate results. He does not. He relied on those below and around him to generate revenue. All he did was cherry pick the best ideas. Yippeee! Teachers have no such luxury." - Graham
 
"I think that this is absolutely overdue. They do the most important paid job next to healthcare. It used to be that a teacher was paid just under the salary of a back bencher. Those days are long gone. There is so much more planning, reporting, individual teaching than ever was the case in the bad old 'sit in your seat and be lectured at days'. I am not a teacher." - Linda
 
 "Im 33 and Im a second year teacher.  I didn't get into teaching for the money and I do love it. But love doesn't pay the bills. I have no savings, I cant do anything in the school holidays because I have no money spare.  Its time NZ started treating their teachers better!"  - Sarah-Marie Ward
 
"The teacher unions present this as a battle between the poor, overworked and underpaid teachers vs the evil, uncaring Government. Well, I've news for them: it isnt! It's between one group of employees telling everyone of the rest of us hard-working taxpayers 'we want more of your money'. While they refuse to acknowledge that they are employed by the citizens of this country, they should be rewarded just like any other public servants.
This share rattling is disgusting and utterly selfish." - Anthony Russell 
 
"Teachers should definitely be paid more, especially in Auckland. There is a looming crisis in regards to teacher numbers. Schools need to be able to employ bright, motivated young teachers, and at present they are struggling to find enough of these. This situation will only get worse unless teachers are paid more. They are extremely important in our society: we should treat them with more dignity, respect, and therefore should pay them more." - Justin