Learning Support Strike Ballot FAQs
Why are we voting on a strike?
Learning support members voted overwhelmingly in paid union meetings last week to move to a formal secret ballot for strike. We are determined to send a strong message to the Government and demand change so our students can get the specialist support they need, our caseloads are manageable and we are recognised as the professionals we are.
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 below)
What do I do when the teachers are on strike on August 15? Is it okay to offer PLD to teacher aides on the strike day, for example?
NZEI encourages Learning Support members to support the teacher strike on August 15, for example by attending lunch time rallies. Providing PLD to teacher aides does not undermine the strike and is a great opportunity for support staff members.
Will I be paid if we go ahead with a strike?
Under the law the Secretary of Education decides on any pay deductions. The strike is for 12 hours. NZEI will seek to limit any deductions and will take legal action if necessary to ensure any deductions are fair and transparent.
What happens now?
NZEI Te Riu Roa National Executive has approved a secret online ballot of members to ask about holding a full-day strike from 7am to 7pm on 21 August.
The secret ballot will be held online and run by an independent company Electionz.com. The ballot information should have been sent to you via Electionz.com's email address, firstname.lastname@example.org on Tuesday August 7th. Voting will be open for one week until 6pm Monday, 13 August. You will receive an individual pin and password to use to vote securely online. Everyone covered by the collective needs to vote.
What does this mean for children and whānau?
We have strong support from our communities for more investment in education — we continue to need the support of parents and whanau! Field staff members appreciate the inconvenience any strike action may have on some families. Members do not take the decision lightly; if a strike is agreed, it will be the first time field staff have ever taken strike action.
The fact that we are taking such a step now shows the grave concerns we have for the future of quality public education and the specialist services learning support members provide. The government needs to take courageous steps now!
What happens on the day of a strike?
If members vote in favour of a strike, member leaders and NZEI staff will work to arrange public events to take our concerns to our communities. details about venues and travel plans would be sent to you as soon as possible.
If we strike, how do I reconcile my obligations under the state sector code with joining public events and talking to my community?
Effective public services depend on honest and robust conversations both within and outside staff, and the code reflects this. You should follow your normal professional practice and not discuss individual children or families, but the code does not prevent you having more generic conversations with people in your community about the challenges you and your colleagues are facing.
NZEI member leaders, including those on the negotiation team, are speaking as NZEI representatives, rather than MOE employees when they speak to the media. Having union member representatives speak on behalf of other members is an important part of democracy and a “proper channel” for raising your issues.
“Public Servants must be able to raise concerns without fear of punishment or reprisal. If Public Servants raised genuine concerns through proper channels and were then disadvantaged in any way because of it, that would be completely unacceptable and something I view very seriously.”
- Peter Hughes, State Services Commissioner
Can non-union members strike?
No. Please encourage potential members to join the union and make their own decision about whether to take strike action.
Will non-members of NZEI be required to work if a strike goes ahead?
Would non-union members get paid on any strike day?
Do NZEI members have to go on strike if the majority endorse a strike?
The success of any strike depends on the conviction and commitment of members. It is the result of a democratic decision taken by secret ballot, and so if the majority support the strikes it binds all members of the collective agreement.
You can see from the nurses’ strike the power of a masssive turnout of NZNO members to support their events. Even though not all nurses would have voted in favour of the tactic of striking, most joined the strike to express their collective concern and solidarity about the issues all nurses are facing.
If an NZEI member elected not to strike and work during a strike would they get paid?
No. All members would be deemed to be on strike and would not be paid.
What if I’m a part time worker? Would I get all or part of my day’s pay docked?
Under the law the Secretary of Education decides on the deduction of pay. The strike is for 12 hours. NZEI would seek to limit any deductions and would take legal action if necessary to ensure any deductions are fair. Your pay should only be docked for the period you are on strike.
I work part time with floating hours and sometimes work on the strike day.
If you are a member covered by the collective agreement, you should join the strike and not be paid for that day.
We’re not just worried about pay. Why is the media focused on that?
All NZEI Te Riu Roa communications to media make it clear that addressing case loads and getting more resources to support children with additional learning needs is key to addressing the crisis we face. However, in the context of the nurses’ dispute and other public service union strikes, the media has a fascination with numbers and percentages that is hard to shift.
You can help by explaining to parents, friends and family, that addressing caseloads so children and their families don’t have to wait so long and can get more one to one support, and more resourcing and staffing to support children with additional learning needs overall are critical to our wider Kua Tae Te wae/It’s Time campaign.
How come this strike vote is happening under a Labour Government, and not during the nine years of National? Is this government an easier target?
The crisis we are facing - created by National’s staffing cap and years of under-investment in education under the previous government - needs addressing now, or our kids and their learning will suffer further.
We know the Labour-led Government has inherited nearly a decade of under-investment in education by the former National Government, but the crisis in education is too important and urgent to ignore or put off. The Government has acknowledged there is a significant problem with children with additional learning needs, teacher shortages and under-investment in education, and we are appealing to it now for immediate action. If these issues are not addressed immediately, we will be facing a far greater crisis in attracting new field staff and unsustainable caseloads when we next negotiate in, probably, two years’ time. We know there is a strong public mandate for more investment in education, and we are encouraging the Government to take a courageous approach to fixing the problems before more children’s learning is put at risk.
Do you think we’ll lose parent and community support if we chose to strike?
We’re really mindful of the pressures any industrial action puts on children and their families. However, this is the first time we’ve voted for strike action in a long time, and our communities understand why we’re doing it – for their kids. We’re really worried about the lack of extra learning support available to children who need it, and the difficulties recruiting new staff. Something has to change, and soon.
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.