High-school teachers may lodge an unusual claim for an immediate 5 per cent pay rise, a year before their next wage increase is due, to help overcome a desperate teacher shortage.
Veteran principal John Russell, who won Kiwibank's Senior New Zealander of the Year Award last year and has been a principal for 29 years, made the surprise move at the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference in Wellington this afternoon.
The association was debating a paper proposing union meetings in the first term of next year to lodge claims worth "hundreds of millions of dollars" when the current three-year secondary teachers' collective agreement expires next October.
The paper said teachers would need a 14.5 per cent pay rise, lifting the top of the basic scale from $75,949 to $86,967, to restore the ratio of senior teachers to 81 per cent above the median wage - a level last achieved in 2004.
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Russell, principal of Naenae College in Lower Hutt, moved an amendment to seek an immediate variation in the existing collective agreement to lift teachers' salaries by 5 per cent as an interim measure to relieve the teacher shortage.
"This is the price we are paying for letting teachers' pay equity drop against the average wage," he said.
"In a recent survey 80 percent of principals said they were having to compromise on appointments because teacher shortages are so dire.
"In my 29 years as a principal I have seen the tide coming in and going out. I can tell you that the tide is moving further and further out.
"Now is the time to inject some energy and reality into this situation," he said "This is a fundamental first step towards dealing to this crisis. We need to get on with the job."
The conference did not complete the debate in the time allocated for it this afternoon and adjourned votes on both the main wages proposal and Russell's amendment until tomorrow.