Nikki Kaye explains why she didn't give teachers the pay rise they wanted

Weekend Life 28/10/2018
Photo: File.

With primary school teachers ready to strike in November, National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has defended the previous Government's response to teachers' demands for better pay and workloads.

Speaking to RadioLIVE on Sunday, Ms Kaye said the previous National Government - for which she was Education Minister in 2017 - couldn't provide the same amount of money to teachers as the current government can.

Ms Kaye said the current government's $5.5 billion surplus could be put good use by increasing its current offer to teachers of an annual 3 percent pay rise over three years.

Regularly asked online why she didn't do more while she was office, she tells people surpluses are a luxury her Government didn't have for most of its time in charge, due to dealing with the global financial crisis and Christchurch earthquakes.

"Of all the areas of Government - when you've got billions of dollars in surplus - that should get a decent pay rise, in my view it's the teachers," said Ms Kaye.

Teachers went on strike in August, demanding the Labour-led Government do more to address pay issues, high workloads and poor resources.

The teachers union New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) want a 16 percent pay rise over two years.

Nikki Kaye. Photo: Getty.

Ms Kaye wouldn't necessarily go that far, but said she wanted to see an offer comparable to other public service workers, such as police, which she claimed are getting a more than 4.5 percent annual increase.

Cutting the university first year's fees free programme implemented by the government would also spare up $2.8 billion dollars said Ms Kaye, claiming that could pay for a 15 percent pay increase for every single teacher.

Ms Kaye said she would increase the pay offer as well as making good on her party's promise to commit to reducing the teacher-student ratio and providing special education support to students at primary school.

"When you have got a billion dollars of cash, we'd both address pay and salary, and also the workload issue. We support additional support for special education facilitators, but also an increase in pay," she said. "You have to use pay and workload as a reason to get more people in, and that's what I am saying to the Government."

She said the current government and Education Minister, Chris Hipkins - who declined RadioLIVE's request for an interview - raised people's hopes too high before the 2017 election. Ms Kaye claimed there were 18 education election promises, including scrapping school donations, that had yet to be fulfilled.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart told RadioLIVE in response that pay rises were not the only issue for teachers and schools. She wants to see more done to encourage people to enter the profession and stay there.

Further strikes will roll out in just over a fortnight, beginning in Auckland on November 12, followed by the rest of the North Island, excluding Auckland and Wellington, the next day.

Christchurch will see teachers walk off the job on November 14, followed by the rest of the South Island the next day.

Finally, Wellington teachers will strike on November 16.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said earlier this week he's disappointed but not surprised primary school teachers will strike again.

"I certainly understand the issues that teachers are raising, we know we've got a lot of work to do there's no question about that."

Listen to the full interviews above.

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