Primary and secondary school teachers across the country have voted to strike on Wednesday, May 29. The historic strike, the day before Budget Day, is the largest - and first ever combined - teachers' strike and could effectively shut down the public school system. The scale of the strike - dubbed a 'mega-strike' - is unprecedented, with 50,000 teachers expected on the picket lines, in a strike likely to affect 800,000 students. The Herald's education reporter Simon Collins breaks down everything you need to know.
What is the strike about?
The strike is about pay and workload, but primary and secondary teachers place different weightings on the two issues.
The Ministry of Education has offered both unions pay rises of 3 per cent a year for three years, plus an extra step at the top of salary scales that would take the total pay rise for a majority of teachers to 12.6 per cent over three years.
It has also offered cash in lieu of back-pay of $500 to each primary teacher and $1000 to each secondary teacher.
The Government's offer is a $1.2 billion deal over four years, which Minister Chris Hipkins says would bring teachers into the top 20 per cent of income earners.
What are the issues for secondary teachers?
Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) president Jack Boyle says the main sticking point for secondary teachers is now workload.
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"You can't say that the ministry hasn't tried to do a bit of negotation in the salary space. They haven't really in the workload space," he says.
PPTA wants an extra hour of non-classroom time for all secondary teachers, lifting non-contact time from five hours to six hours a week. It also wants additional extra non-contact time for middle managers.
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The Ministry of Education has offered a to lift middle-management allowances from $1000 to $1500 a year and a 15 per cent increase in the number of those allowances. But it has not offered any extra non-contact time for those roles.
What about the primary teachers?
The NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) says primary teachers are well behind with only one hour a week of non-contact time. They want to double that to two hours a week, plus reduced class sizes, more resource teachers and a special needs co-ordinator (Senco) in every school.
The ministry has offered only an extra 15 minutes a week of non-contact time for the next three years only. It says class sizes and Senco roles should not be decided in industrial talks and notes that the Government has approved 600 extra Senco roles from next year.
But New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) president Lynda Stuart says pay is also still an issue for primary teachers because their last pay deal expired earlier than the secondary teachers, so primary teachers with the same qualifications now earn about 3 per cent less than their secondary counterparts.
The ministry is offering exactly the same percentage increases to both unions so it would not close the gap, although it says this is balanced by other concessions such as lifting the pay for primary teachers who don't have degrees by much more than the standard 3 per cent a year.
What does that mean in real dollars?
A secondary teacher with a degree and a teaching diploma starts on $51,200 and reaches $78,000 at the top of the current scale.
The ministry is offering to lift the beginner teacher to $55,948 and the top of the scale to $87,990 by 2021.
It is offering to lift beginner primary teachers with the same qualifications from $49,588 to $54,186, and the top of their scale from $75,949 to $85,481.
These increases of 9.3 and 12.6 per cent over three years are roughly in line with an Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) forecast for New Zealand average wages to rise by 10.2 per cent in the three years to June 2021, so they would not recover much of the ground that teachers have lost against other groups.
Ten years ago the top of the teachers' scale was 76 per cent above the median wage. It is now 50 per cent above the median and would recover only slightly to 54 per cent above the median by 2021 on the NZIER projection.
How long will this go on for?
The Ministry of Education has asked for facilitated bargaining in the Employment Relations Authority to try to stave off the May 29 strike.
If that fails, PPTA members have voted for further action, such as regional strikes and sending one year level home at a time.
Victoria University of Wellington industrial relations expert Dr Stephen Blumenfeld says the key will be public opinion.
"The teachers currently have the support of the public, in particular parents with school-aged kids," he says. "If that continues, the Government, I think, will ultimately have to concede."