Teachers’ Strikes: Lessons from our Struggle

By Romany Tasker-Poland, a teacher and ISO member

The teachers, primary and secondary, have had a victory (if a partial one). It has been a long fight. The first teachers’ strike was by NZEI primary teachers in August 2018. Primary teachers struck again in November in the form of rolling regional action. The last action was the historic NZEI and PPTA joint “mega-strike” on 29 May.

The public have been with us every step of the way. The massive turn-outs for the marches have been one indicator of that, as has the support flowing in through social media and the positive interviews in the mainstream media. And why would the public not support us? When we talk about the “the public”, who are we actually talking about? When we marched on Parliament these were the people marching with us: our students and their whānau, who see the work we do each day; our own children, families and whānau, who we are trying to support; our friends and co-workers; and workers from other industries demonstrating the principle of solidarity: your struggle is our struggle.

Throughout this struggle we have been threatened with public opprobrium. By the Ministry, the media, and union higher-ups. The Ministry has obvious reasons for trying to discourage us. Many mainstream media outlets are well-known for having a right-wing, anti-union slant; and aside from this, drama and conflict generate more interest and more revenue. If anything, the media coverage has been surprisingly positive overall. As for union officials, it is their job to mediate between workers and the Ministry. Negotiation is their bread and butter; striking deals is their modus operandi. That is why they are so often more conservative than the rank and file members, more apt to try to moderate expectations, and more apt to wring their hands about public opinion. For workers, it is hard to maintain self-confidence when you are hearing repeated threats that the tide of public opinion will inevitably turn against you. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When “public opinion” and “burden on parents” are the talking points being repeated, it becomes common sense that “the public” ought to feel aggrieved, or at least anxious about industrial action. [Read more…]

Teachers’ Strikes: a win, and the coming challenge

(Image credit: Brett Phibbs, NZ Herald)

By Shomi Yoon

Strikes work. That’s the lesson of the teachers’ industrial action in May and earlier. Chris Hipkins said there was no more money. Within days of the teachers’ action – a massive rallying of primary and secondary striking together – an additional $271 million were somehow discovered. Teachers went on strike not just for their own pay, but for public education generally. There is a crisis in New Zealand schools, with short staffing, turnover, and teachers leaving the profession. That affects us all. The strikes raised these important issues.

So the members of secondary teachers’ union PPTA and primary teachers’ union NZEI  should feel great pride in their unity and power.  We brought education to the centre of the debate, and  we won an important, if partial victory.

But it’s a bittersweet win, and many were looking for more. Only 65% of PPTA members voted to accept the government’s offer; the margin was, as the Dominion Post put it ‘slim’. Many were prepared to take the fight further. This offer presents a significant increase in some teachers’ pay of 15 – 18 %. But it is a stop-gap measure at best. It will not fix the present crisis.

At the heart of the teachers’ campaign was not just money or time but a crisis. Too few people are training as teachers, and too many teachers leave within the first five years of teaching. The average age of a primary teacher is 55 years old. In secondary schools, the crisis is evident as non-specialist teachers attempt to teach specialist classes to cover gaps. Some 40-50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Retention is a significant issue in the aging profession. The offer does not solve – or begin to solve – these real problems, problems that motivated teachers to strike in the first place.

An additional $271 million will be put towards teachers’ pay, and the offer restored pay parity for primary teachers – a guarantee of the same basic pay as secondary teachers. The offer also lifts the pay for an experienced teacher from $78,000 to $90,000. [Read more…]

Power in union – teachers strike for education

By Shomi Yoon

 

Teachers from both secondary, primary, and area schools went on strike in their thousands yesterday to show their determination and frustration with the negotiations with the Ministry of Education and Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

 

Union strength and union pride rang out throughout Aotearoa. The combined strength of both unions was palpable. Teachers downed their whiteboard markers and schools nationwide had no choice but to close their doors. Some 300,000 school children stayed at home. In the rallies that happened across the motu, teachers shut down traffic and marched through the main streets demanding for better conditions and pay. The noise from chanting teachers at the biggest gathering of teachers in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland was “deafening”. With the combined membership of 50,000 between the secondary teachers’ PPTA and primary teachers’ NZEI, the relevance of unions, the power of unionism and strikes are indisputable.

 

Which side are you on?

[Read more…]

Tell Otago to #LoveHumanities

love-humanities-rallyBy Seb Hepburn

Last week between 300-400 people gathered outside the Union building at Otago University to protest proposed cuts to the Humanities division. Up to 20 jobs are at risk across the History, Anthropology and Archaeology, English, Languages, and Music departments, and the TEU has been vocal in its campaign against the cuts. There was a prior protest of similar size in August, and a smaller one outside a lecture theatre where Bill English was speaking in September. The tree next to the Union building had been adorned with knitted and paper hearts, the latter of which bore messages of support for the humanities. Once the crowd has assembled we began marching to the steps opposite the clock tower, led by a bagpiper. [Read more…]

The Productivity Commission: problems dressed up as solutions

Graham Scott, specialist in public sector reform

Graham Scott, specialist in public sector reform

By Brian Roper

The NZ Productivity Commission is currently systematically reviewing tertiary education in this country. Chapter 12 of its draft report is entitled ‘A System that Supports New Models’. Here are some highlights (or lowlights):

  • The re-introduction of interest rates on student loans, universities given complete autonomy to set fees without regulatory caps (‘unregulated fees’) to cover the full costs of providing degrees,
  • student education to be funded with vouchers and ‘student education accounts’,
  • tertiary education providers allowed to become self-accrediting,
  • universities given freedom to sell off assets to private sector firms, and
  • the abolition of the requirement for university teaching to be researched based. [Read more…]

No Deportations!

no-deportations-oby Josh O’Sullivan

On Monday night in quiet leafy suburbs in Lynfield, the silence was broken by calls for justice from a crowd of around 50 people. Justice for the 150 Indian students who have been swindled by immigration agents overseas and tertiary institutions here in New Zealand. The National Party was hosting a public meeting at the Lynfield Community Church behind locked doors and a police line, refusing to even hear the plight of these exploited students.  The meeting was a meet and greet with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and National list MP Parmjeet Parmar with various locals including the owners of the International Academy, and National list MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, who earlier in the week likened the students to faulty fridges from China during a radio interview. [Read more…]

NZEI and PPTA stand up to government’s attacks on public education.

worth-fighting-forBy Shomi Yoon

Unionised teachers in the secondary, primary and early childcare unions, PPTA and NZEI, attended paid union meeting nationwide to discuss a fightback against the government’s attacks on public education this week.

Thousands of teachers filled the Auckland and Wellington town halls to voice their anger and concern about the government’s plans. Thousands more filled halls from Invercargill to Northland – these mass meetings show the depth of the opposition to Bulk Funding 2.0 amongst teachers. There is a clear mood for resistance.

There’s a reason why this government hates teachers and the teaching profession: teachers fight back. Teachers have a strong and proud tradition of standing up for public education and demanding more for education. [Read more…]

Mana College Under Attack

Mana CollegeBy Martin Gregory

Government moves to put Mana College into statutory management smacks of the racism and contempt for workers and the poor that is prevalent throughout the government’s approach to public education. All working people should take an interest in these developments.

Mana College, Porirua, had of last year a student composition that was 65% Māori , 18% Pasifika, 8% “Other” and 9% NZ European/Pākehā . On 9 March this year the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, put the school under statutory management. This is yet another example of pinning the “Māori under-achievement” label on Māori and teachers. The decision is a smokescreen to the real explanation for comparative educational achievement statistics. And what ulterior motives might Hekia Parata have? [Read more…]

Students, Workers and the Class Struggle

auckland university student protestThe history of capitalism is the history of revolt. Throughout the 19th, 20th and now the 21st centuries the capitalist system has been wracked by crises during which the normal functioning of the system is halted, leaving millions of ordinary people with no option other than to rise up. Workers of course, are a wellspring of resistance to the capitalist system and will be central actors in its overthrow. But revolt against the system comes at the same time from innumerous directions. The struggles of students and youth are one such source of revolt, one that has in many times and places made an important contribution the wider struggle against the whole capitalist system.

It’s evident today of course, that students are not innately radical. But radicalism seldom begins all at once. More usually it begins to coalesce around more immediate interests. Hundreds joined protests at Auckland University in 1965 to demand government action on university building programs, bursaries and student residences. Students at Otago began by challenging draconian university regulations that prohibited mixed flatting in 1967. Actions on welfare issues continued to be a theme throughout the high points of student radicalism during the late 60s and 70s, as students campaigned against ‘slumlords’ and defended academic freedom from the incursions of the SIS. [Read more…]

“Restructuring”: Job Losses at Elam School of Fine Arts

Nick and Graeme sharing a moment[Thanks to Natasha Ovely for submitting this guest post.]

 

Somewhere alongside the white wall studios slapped with half-hearted painterly expressions and littered with lewd, lazy structures, lie a set of workshops brimming with activity that beckon the golden years of art-making. These technical workshops are fast paced and at times chaotic environments that few people can reign in, let alone command. Graeme Brett and Nick Waterson are among the few men who are capable of such a feat and are the pillars of the old establishment that is Elam School of Fine Arts. They are synonymous with its history and withstanding reputation as one of Auckland’s finest art schools. Now after years of dedication they, along with technicians from other art departments at the University of Auckland, stand to face the possibility of exile into a desert-like job market according to “The National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries- Technical Staffing Review Consultation Document”. [Read more…]