February 14, 2006
Kindergarten Teachers’ Negotiators And Ministry Reach Settlement
The kindergarten teachers’ negotiating team has reached a settlement with the Ministry of Education and kindergarten associations aimed at settling the kindergarten dispute.
“The teachers’ team believes the settlement offers a constructive way to resolve the dispute,” says Irene Cooper, the National President of NZEI Te Riu Roa, the union representing kindergarten teachers. “That’s because it addresses the key concerns of both sides of the dispute.”
“The settlement addresses the need of the kindergarten associations, involved in the negotiations, to extend the hours that some of their kindergartens operate, and it meets the teachers’ requirement to maintain the quality of education provided at the kindergartens where operating hours are extended.”
Under the terms of the settlement, if a kindergarten association wants to extend a kindergarten’s operating hours, it would consult NZEI about the changes to the teachers’ working conditions. A process has been established that requires kindergarten associations to actively consider a range of issues, including quality of education and teachers working conditions in reaching a decision on changing a kindergarten’s operating hours.
“Maintaining quality education at all kindergartens has always been the teachers’ bottom line,” says Irene Cooper.
“This settlement provides a way to protect the quality of education in all kindergartens, while also enabling kindergarten associations to meet the need of some families for their children to attend kindergartens for longer periods than the traditional morning and afternoon sessions.”
The settlement would deliver a short term collective agreement that would run for around 13 months, expiring at the end of February next year. This will allow time for both the kindergarten associations and the teachers to address major issues, in particular the introduction in July next year of the government’s policy of providing 20 free hours of education for three and four-year old children.
The settlement also provides a working party, chaired by an independent chairperson, that would look at the issues surrounding kindergarten operating hours and the implementation of the 20 hours free education policy. It would seek to clarify these issues, to provide a clearer picture of the way forward, when negotiations are held next year.
“The details of the 20 free hours policy, and how it will be implemented, have not been decided,” says Irene Cooper.
“This creates a great deal of uncertainty right now for the early childhood education sector.”
“A shorter term collective agreement will allow time for both the associations and the teachers to move away from the confrontation of an industrial dispute, and start working together on how we implement such a major change in the provision of early childhood education.” The proposed settlement will be considered by the 1760 kindergarten teachers who belong to NZEI Te Riu Roa at a series of paid union meetings starting tomorrow (Wednesday February 15) and continuing until Friday Februrary 24. The teachers’ negotiating team is recommending that the teachers ratify the proposed settlement.