Multiple strikes due to nine year ‘valve of pressure’ – PM

The AM Show 14/08/2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the primary school teachers’ strike is a culmination of the previous Government's neglect.

An estimated 29,000 primary school teachers will strike on Wednesday across New Zealand, after nurses did the same last month.

Ms Ardern sympathises with primary school teachers and says it's their prerogative to strike over the latest pay offer extended by the Government. But the Prime Minister is confident a deal will be reached soon through negotiations, despite critics calling the coalition inept.

We've had a valve of pressure building up which we now have to work through and resolve.

"It's not like we've entered in and suddenly all of these issues have emerged in the last eight months," Ms Ardern told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"The way I see it, we've had a valve of pressure building up which we now have to work through and resolve.”

Primary school teachers will strike for a full day for the first time in 24 years, after rejecting a pay offer which would see those at the top of the pay scale get a 6.1 percent increase and those at the bottom get a 14.7 percent increase.

The maximum teacher's salary would be $80,600 and the entry salary would be $55,030. But teachers have asked for a 16 percent increase over two years, alongside extra learning support and more time for teaching.

Ms Ardern noted the difficulty in finding a balance between pleasing those at the top and at entry level. She said it's important to "attract teachers to the workforce, so there are a number of competing needs. It's not just about pay."

But the Prime Minister was coy when pressed on whether there is more money to offer teachers. She said only "someone foolish would sit here and tell you what they planned for their round of negotiations."

"For any negotiation it's not bottomless - we of course have to make sure that we're managing the books appropriately. But there are a range of issues that aren't just about pay and more about the work load that our teachers have," she said.

"We had already doubled what teachers had been receiving in the last round of offers by the last Government, so we thought our starting position in this round of negotiations was a good one."

"We are coming into a period where I don't think [teachers have] been listened to over the past nine years and we are trying to rectify that. We've already done a lot of work in the last Budget, particularly around teacher support."

In the Government's recent Budget, learning support was given an extra $133.5 million over four years. That'll go toward the likes of speech language therapists and psychologists. There will be an extra $30.4 million over four years for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.

But the Prime Minister is facing concerns that New Zealand's teacher shortage is expected to reach crisis point by 2030. By that year, it's estimated there will be at least an extra 40,000 primary school students and 38,000 of them are projected to be in the Auckland area.

Louise Green, the head strike negotiator for principals, says teaching isn't seen as an attractive career path anymore, and the profession is "reaching crisis point".

Watch the full interview with Jacinda Ardern above. 

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