Understanding strikes

Common questions and answers

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) 

Would I be paid if I went on strike?

Employers can decide whether to deduct pay or not. The Ministry of Education would determine how much pay is to be deducted.

Do schools have to close if teachers and principals are on strike?

It is a Board's decision whether or not to close a school. Partial closure is not an option under the law.

Principals and staff board reps should not be involved in any Board decisions about staffing during a strike or school closure as this puts them into a situation of a conflict of interest. Boards should be advised to seek advice from STA and the Ministry if they require more guidance.

What is the situation for relievers?

Any reliever members of NZEI have the right to join a strike and stop work. They are covered by the PTCA and are bound by the majority vote taken at the PUMs. Relievers would, therefore, also be on strike and should not be employed to perform the work of striking teachers. Cover for striking teachers must only be for reasons of health and safety.

Would support staff get paid if teachers were on strike?

Yes, if they normally work on that day.  A strike by teachers and principals would not affect support staff so they should be paid even if the school were closed.  If it is not and they are required to work they should also be paid.  They should not however do the work of a striking teacher member.

Can non-union members strike?

No.  Please encourage potential members to join the union and make their own decision about whether to accept or reject the Ministry’s offer.

If a school were legally closed during a strike, would we have to make up the time at the end of the year?

No, not if the school is closed.

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.