Claims and negotiations


What has happened to pay parity with other state sector teachers?

The short answer is the Ministry won't make us an offer that maintains pay parity. The slightly longer explanation is:

For NZEI Te Riu Roa, pay parity means teachers across the state sector have the same (or very similar) pay scale. Each time we negotiate a new collective agreement we have to negotiate these steps. Ever since we achieved pay parity the Ministry has agreed to this. Last time we negotiated we voted to accept a two year term and secondary teachers and principals accepted a three year term. That means we got offered two increases whilst secondary teachers and principals got three.

The reason we went for the shorter term was so we could work with the Ministry to develop a new career framework. We would then negotiate to introduce it as part of the current negotiations. We intended to factor in the third increase as part of that work, however, that did not happen. The Ministry did not complete the work with us and the Government is now refusing to enable the Ministry to factor the value of that third increase into these negotiations. That means, if we accepted the recent offers, we would no longer have parity and there would be no clear pathway to return to it.


What do pay parity and salary comparability mean?

Pay parity is how we refer to the idea that teachers across the state sector should have the same (or very similar) pay scale. Salary Comparability is the name given to the clause in the collective agreement that is intended to express a commitment between the parties to maintain this.


Will non-members receive the same settlement and benefits as members?

Throughout these negotiations NZEI has been negotiating for elements of the settlement to apply to members only.


How would a settlement apply to non-members?

The NZEI Te Riu Roa team is focused on getting the best deal possible for members. It is up to non-members to negotiate their own employment agreement.


What is the difference between "accepting an offer" and "ratifying a settlement"?

An offer sets out what the Ministry would include in a terms of settlement if we accept the offer. If the majority of members voted to accept the offer, NZEI Te Riu Roa would then conduct negotiations to finalise specific details and agree a terms of settlement.  We would then have a formal ratification vote for the terms of settlement.


Why have we made claims that would lead to schools needing to employ more teachers (increasing CRT, reducing curriculum staffing ratios, SENCO release, professional leadership time) when there is a teacher shortage crisis?

We know that there are lots of people choosing to leave teaching or deciding not to train to be teachers because of the workload, stress and lack of support so we need to change the conditions to make teaching a more attractive and sustainable profession. If we do that, we will have more teachers available and will be able to achieve the claims. We know that we might need to phase in some of the things we claimed.


When will Q1 and Q2 teachers get to move up a step?

One of the latest offers was for Q1 and Q2 teachers to move up one step on 27 February 2021 (as long as they have been on their current step at least a year and have a satisfactory attestation). The other offer allowed for Q1 and Q2 teachers to move up a step from 27 February 2020. Both of these options were rejected by members.


What is happening with our claim for SENCOs?

The NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiating team is continuing to push the importance of introducing a SENCO role that has release time, remuneration and PLD available to support it.  

The Government has announced that it intends to create new in-school Learning Support Co-ordinators as part of a wider draft Learning Support Action Plan. We are currently waiting for more detail about how the role will be implemented. We have let the Secretary for Education know that we expect to negotiate terms and conditions for the LSC role.


Are we still fighting for more CRT?

This is something that the NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiating teams are continuing to push hard for across the negotiating table.


Does the Ministry offer address workload for teachers and principals?

The NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiating teams have emphasised throughout negotiations that workload must be addressed in a settlement. The Ministry has made limited offers about CRT.


What happened to the offers the Ministry made last year?

Members voted overwhelmingly to reject both offers last year. They have also voted overwhelmingly to reject the two offers made this year. Any new offers made by the Ministry completely replace the previous offers.


Is there still a bigger pay rise being offered to beginning teachers?

The last offer from the Ministry provided the same pay increase for all teachers. The larger increase for beginning teachers was only in the first offer from the Ministry. Members voted to reject that offer.


Will we get back pay?

This is something that the NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiating teams are continuing to push hard for across the negotiating table. The last offer contained only a very small amount of backpay.


What is happening with the career framework development work?

The NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiating teams are continuing to push the need for work to be done to ensure that being a teacher or a principal is seen as an attractive and viable career option. The teams are pushing for this to include a focus on teachers with specialist skills in Māori, Pasifika and special education.

Strike action and ballots


Is it true we won't lose pay if we take partial strike action? Last year we were told that we would lose pay. What has changed?

The law has changed. Until December 2018, employers had the right to deduct at least 10% from workers' pay when workers took partial strike action. Sections 95A-H of the Employment Relations Act have now been repealed, so employers no longer have the power to do this.


Can our employer deduct our pay if we take strike action?

Workers taking strike action of any kind can be suspended and under the Employment Relations Act they are not entitled to any pay for the duration of the suspension. The Secretary for Education has the right to exercise this power.


Why do we need to do a secret ballot?

The Employment Relations Act required us to conduct a secret ballot of members who would be involved in a strike. The ballot has to contain precise details about the date and time of the proposed strike.


When was the last strike ballot held and when did the last strike action happen?

During paid union meetings between 6-10 May 2019, primary teacher and principal members voted overwhelmingly to hold a day of joint strike action with secondary teachers on May 29.

Prior to this, independently conducted the secret ballot between 16-25 October. Members voted to hold a week of rolling one-day strikes between 12-16 November.

Strike dates:

  • Auckland Region - Monday 12 November
  • North Island (except Auckland and Wellington) - Tuesday 13 November
  • Wider Christchurch area (including Ellesmere, Ashley, Mid-Canterbury, Malvern, Hurunui and Aronui Tomua Waitaha) - Wednesday 14 November
  • South Island (except Christchurch) - Thursday 15 November
  • Wellington Region - Friday 16 November


What is a strike?

Under the Employment Relations Act, to strike means when a group of employees stop work or reduce their normal rate or output of work.


Is a strike lawful?

Yes, strikes are legal under the Employment Relations Act. (see the definition)


Can non-union teacher or principal members strike?

No. Please encourage potential members to join the union so they can be involved in decisions about whether to accept or reject the Ministry's offers.

Can student teachers strike?

No. Because student teachers are not yet covered by the Primary Teachers' Collective Agreement, they cannot strike.

Student teachers should not do anything that they wouldn't have ordinarily done that day - this includes stepping into the role of teacher, supervising a group or class or helping with holiday programs.

If you are a primary student on practicum at the moment, and the school where you are doing your practicum is closed for instruction, you should attend the rallies and marches with your colleagues.

If the school remains open, you should take advice from your academic institution. If your associate teacher is a union member, they will be on strike. If your school remains open and your associate teacher is a non-union member and therefore not on strike, you should attend as normal.

What the legislation says about strikes

The Employment Relations Act provides the following definition of a strike.

Meaning of strike

(1) In this Act, strike means an act that-

(a) is the act of a number of employees who are or have been in the employment of the same employer or of different employers-

(i) in discontinuing that employment, whether wholly or partially, or in reducing the normal performance of it; or

(ii) in refusing or failing after any such discontinuance to resume or return to their employment; or

(iii) in breaking their employment agreements; or

(iv) in refusing or failing to accept engagement for work in which they are usually employed; or

(v) in reducing their normal output or their normal rate of work; and

(b) is due to a combination, agreement, common understanding, or concerted action, whether express or, as the case requires, implied, made or entered into by the employees.

Campaign process and practical considerations


How long will the campaign continue?

Until we get an outcome we are satisfied with and as long as members are committed to fighting to address the critical issues facing education on a daily basis!


Is it true that the Government can't afford to put more money into this settlement?

The Government currently has massive surpluses, way in excess of the money it would take to settle these negotiations. It is a fundamental obligation for any government to ensure there is a qualified teacher in every classroom and that each teacher has the resources and manageable class sizes required to teach effectively. This government is failing to meet that obligation.

Apart from all that, NZEI Te Riu Roa has yet to see how the Government has arrived at the settlement costings they are talking about in the negotiations and in the media and we believe they have significantly over-estimated the costings on our claims.


Is the process going too slowly?

We would like to have received better offers more quickly through negotiations. NZEI Te Riu Roa members on the negotiating teams have made themselves available every time the Ministry has indicated that it is able to meet with us.

Outside of negotiations, we work as quickly as possible to share information with over 30,000 members and to set up processes for discussion and decision making.


Why have we decided on the current timeframes for voting and determining next steps?

We have developed the current timeframes for voting to make sure there is enough time for all members to discuss and consider the options they are voting on so they can make a well-informed vote. This needs to be balanced with maintaining campaign momentum and political pressure as well as practical factors such as the time necessary for setting up electronic ballots.


Will we publish the percentages from the ballots?

We will let members know the strength of feeling behind the votes but we don't share the specific percentages. This is tactically significant information that we don't want in the public domain so it is confidential to National Executive.


Can NZEI Te Riu Roa and PPTA join forces?

NZEI Te Riu Roa and PPTA are working as strongly as possible to support each other's campaigns. While we have very similar issues, we have separate collective agreements so some solutions are slightly different. However, members of both NZEI and PPTA have voted to carry out joint strike action on 29 May 2019. We are also working together on the Area School Teachers' Collective Agreement.


What happens when the 12 month extension to our collective agreement expires (principals: 16 May, teachers: 8 June)?

Technically, if we don't settle a new collective agreement before that date, your current collective agreement is deemed to have expired. However, there is nothing in legislation that would enable an employer to intervene at that point and enter into negotiations with an employee. As long as your union remains committed to the bargaining process, your terms and conditions of employment must remain as they were under the expired collective agreement and the prohibition on the employer negotiating directly with any union member remains in force.


Why are we using Loomio?

We have set up a Loomio site that participants apply to join so that it is a private place for members to have discussions about options. It allows for members from across the country to hear and discuss different ideas and perspectives before decisions are made. Formal decisions are made through processes such as electronic ballots and meeting votes.


How can we get involved if we don't want to be active on social media?

Members can have discussions in their schools and feed-back their views via email or our call centre. There are also many locally planned face to face activities. Information about this is distributed locally.


Do we know how many teachers are non-members?

Based on the information available to us we believe that nearly 90% of primary teachers are members and over 95% of principals. Our membership is growing every week!


Are we doing work to look at health and wellbeing for senior leaders as well as principals?

The current study being conducted by the Australian Catholic University applies to APs and DPs as well as principals. When we get the final report at the end of the survey period this year we will get data specific to APs and DPs. We are working on rolling out a similar study for primary teachers this year.


How can we effectively demonstrate our workload?

Members are coming up with all sorts of creative ways of doing this-online diaries, blogs, vlogs, Facebook posts, tweets and we have heard of schools that are tracking work hours on their public notice boards! We have also been gathering stories to share with the media of things like the way classes need to be doubled up to cover teacher absences and how this affects our workload and children's learning.


How do we find out about local branch and network activities?

Many branches have Facebook pages where they share information about their planning and events. The NZEI Member Support Centre (0800 693 443) can also put you in touch with relevant staff and member leaders to find out locally activities.


Can we put all resources on the website so they are easy to access?

We put as many resources as possible on the NZEI Te Riu Roa website. Occasionally there is information that is for members only. That is usually distributed via email. We encourage members to discuss this sort of information at schools to make sure everyone receives it. If members are missing emails, they can request them by calling our Member Support Centre (0800 693 443).