February 27, 2006
Kindergarten Teachers Vote To Accept Agreement
Kindergarten teachers have voted to accept a collective agreement that ends their dispute.
They voted to accept the agreement at 43 meetings throughout the country, that began on Wednesday last week and ended in Auckland this afternoon. The vote was 94% in favour of accepting the new agreement, which expires on February 28 next year.
"A majority of kindergarten teachers voted to accept the new agreement because it enables all the parties to step back from the confrontation of the dispute and start working together." says Irene Cooper, the National President of NZEI Te Riu Roa, the union that represents the teachers.
"This is essential if we are to find solutions to the issue of maintaining education quality, if and when kindergarten associations seek to extend their operating hours," says Irene Cooper.
"It must be noted that 6% of teachers voted against accepting the agreement. That's because they're extremely disappointed the issues surrounding the extension of operating hours were not resolved during the negotiations."
"In fact, it's clear from the meetings that all the teachers feel frustrated that the claims tabled by their negotiation team, which enabled associations to extend their operating hours without sacrificing education quality, were rejected by the associations on the other side of the table." "The country's kindergarten teachers have a simple message for their employers," says Irene Cooper. "For the sake of the 45,000 children who attend kindergartens, every association must recognise the need to work with their teachers to meet the challenges of extending operating hours, and of implementing the government's policy of 20 hours of free education for three and four year olds, due to be introduced next year."
Under the new agreement, if a kindergarten association wants to extend a kindergarten's operating hours, it will consult NZEI about the changes to the teachers' working conditions. The extension will only proceed if the union and the teachers are satisfied that the whole proposal maintains the quality of education provided at the kindergarten.
The new agreement also establishes a working party, with an independent chairperson, in which teachers, NZEI officials and the employers can explore the issues surrounding kindergarten operating hours and teachers' hours of work. The aim is to reach an agreed position that will be used as a basis for the next round of negotiations, when the agreement expires in 12 months.
The agreement also provides for payment of a tutor teacher allowance for experienced teachers who are responsible for providing an advice and guidance programme for provisionally registered teachers working towards full registration. The allowance is $500 a year, rising to $600 a year from July 1.
"It's taken six hard months to negotiate this agreement and the teachers have never wavered in their commitment to maintaining the quality of education provided to children who attend kindergartens," says Irene Cooper. "This agreement meets their bottom line of ensuring that the quality of education is maintained at all kindergartens."