COMMENT:

I assume Chris Hipkins has a plan.

The Education Minister meets the teachers today to try to break what is now about a year's worth of industrial action.

As it sits, I see the teachers on the back foot.

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Not that they don't have at least a partially sensible argument over their plight, because they do.

But this piecemeal rolling-type action we are seeing this week is sadly a shadow of what we saw last week, which was the headline-grabbing "mega-strike".

Once you have had a mega-strike, unless you're backing it up with a "super-mega-strike", then the reality is you've fired all your best weapons and it's downhill from there.

The great irony of today is, of course, the fact that the teachers appear to be getting nowhere fast with what really are their greatest comrades.

If you can't convince a Labour minister of your worth, you really don't have much of an argument.

The Labour Party is run by the unions, and there are few professions more actively unionised than teaching. So in theory, they should've been cutting this deal 11 months back with lots of celebrations about how it is a Labour Government and a Labour Government only that truly understands the plight of the teacher and has been able to heal their wounds, mend their ills and generally throw the billions at their plight that they so richly deserve.

What sadly won't happen today is what should have happened years ago — the National Government had a crack early on but chickened out — and that is, of course, performance pay.

Chris Hipkins meets teachers today to try to break their industrial action. Photo / Greg Bowker
Chris Hipkins meets teachers today to try to break their industrial action. Photo / Greg Bowker

Good teachers are invaluable and deserve twice the money they are on, if not more.

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But not all teachers are good, and the concept that all teachers get the same pay based on time served, not talent, is sadly the reason they are in the pickle they find themselves in.

Perhaps the moment that shone a light on the futility of this union-led, let's-all-go-on-strike approach they've used forever for grievances was in news coverage of one of the early strikes where a mum joined her daughter on the march.

Mum explained that 25 years ago she, too, had been out marching for better pay and conditions, and here she was today a quarter-century later, backing her daughter and not for one moment seemingly joining the dots of dissatisfaction.

The cold, hard reality is that in her life and her daughter's life the teachers have never been happy, have always been complaining about the same things: Money, workload, contact time and paperwork.

How is it they cannot see that their plight has not been advanced one jot? And why are they not asking questions of the people who tell them that the way they're employed and the collective agreements they have are a modern, sensible or productive way to conduct business, when patently they're not.

Unions are little short of miracle workers. They provide a crappy service with little result and still successfully charge the annual sub for more of the same. How mad is that?

The Prime Minister told me this week on the radio that there is some sort of long-term plan, which to my mind seems to be her way of saying, take the deal for now and in the next few years we'll bump recruitment numbers.

That will be a test for the teachers. Do they trust this Government? And will this Government even be here in a few years?

The pressure for Hipkins to live up to is to keep to his word: $1.2 billion is an excellent offer, it's a 10-grand pay rise. If he buckles in any major way he'll exacerbate the problem they partially created in the first place from opposition, and the main reason we've seen so much industrial action of late.

In opposition they talked a big game, only to bottle it in government, especially now they've spent all the money.

They've already been seen as too soft a touch, hence the endless strikes these past 18 months.

A country on strike is not a focused, productive country, and it's not a good look for a Government that already has far too many "delivery" issues.