Parents at one of New Zealand's poorest schools will join the teachers' strike protests on Wednesday, even though most of the parents earn far less than the teachers.
Helena Tanuvasa, who chairs the board of decile-1 May Rd School in Mt Roskill, said she hoped at least 20 parents from the school would join their teachers in a march up Queen St in Auckland when the teachers strike on Wednesday.
"I'm hoping for 20 or 30. A hundred said they are coming, but I think realistically we'll get 20 or 30," she said.
Tanuvasa, a solo mum who works part-time in the school's after-school programme, said she and most parents at the school earned "way less than a beginning teacher".
Primary teachers with a degree currently start on $47,980 a year and have been offered increases of 3 per cent a year that would lift the starting rate to $52,429 by 2021.
Teachers at the top of the scale have been offered an extra pay step as well that would lift their pay from $75,949 to $85,481 by 2021, or from about 1.5 times to 1.54 times the national median wage.
"Of course I will never earn that much, but they are qualified and they have got the experience that is required, so why shouldn't they be paid what they deserve?" Tanuvasa said.
The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has granted a request from the Ministry of Education for facilitated talks with the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA), although there has still not been any date fixed for the talks with only a couple of days to go until Wednesday's "mega-strike".
Lynda Stuart, the president of primary teachers' union NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) and principal of May Rd School, said primary teachers voted by Survey Monkey last week against further facilitated bargaining after ERA chief James Crichton recommended in November that the teachers should accept the ministry's offer.
The institute is mounting a legal argument to resist being forced back into facilitated talks.
"We still have lawyers working on that," Stuart said.
Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said: "The NZEI has also objected to continuing facilitated bargaining and we are waiting to hear from the ERA about that."
Tanuvasa is one of more than 6800 people who have joined a Facebook page called "I back the teachers!"
She said she and her four children, including the youngest two who are still at May Rd School, would join the teachers' march which is due to leave Fort St in downtown Auckland at midday on Wednesday and end with a rally at Aotea Square.
"Not everybody is working, and so they are able to pick up their children or understand that the doors are going to be shut. We have actually talked to the parents to come to the strike as well," she said.
"The only way the Government is going to listen is if the parents affected by this are out there marching with our children.
"There is a bus route from our school right into Symonds St. We have been preparing parents to jump in and offer rides if it's needed."
PPTA Auckland chair Michael Cabral-Terry said primary and secondary teachers would protest at 150 intersections around Auckland from 7am on Wednesday before converging on Queen St at lunch time.
"We are expecting anywhere between 6000 and 8000 people at the march and in Aotea Square," he said.
"We are expecting a lot of parents and public. Our own surveys and NZEI's surveys have shown that 75 to 80 per cent of the general public support the teachers in this."
However MacGregor-Reid said striking over pay offers which the ministry says are worth $1.2 billion over four years "does not offer a solution".
"Instead it will cause disruption to the learning of many thousands of children and young people, as well as causing significant inconvenience for families and employers," she said.
"Facilitated bargaining through the Employment Relations Authority is the strongest form of assistance available to reach a negotiated settlement. That is why the ministry urgently applied for this."