Bill English Wrong About Primary Teacher Meetings
National’s education spokesperson, Bill English, is wrong when he states that primary teachers and principals have taken a half day off today to discuss industrial relations.
“Mr English is misinformed,” says NZEI National President, Irene Cooper. “The 210 paid union meetings NZEI has organised for primary teachers and principals are not all being held today.”
“They actually began a week ago and have been spread over a three week period,” says Irene Cooper.
She says Mr English is also not correct when he claims that the NZEI has not considered parents in holding the two hour meetings in school time.
“In arranging the meetings we took great care to ensure that any inconvenience to families and whanau was kept to an absolute minimum,” says Irene Cooper. “We gave every school involved six weeks notice so they could inform parents and work with them to develop plans to minimise any inconvenience for children and parents.”
“We spread the meeting over three weeks, and arranged different times for the teachers’ and principals’ meetings, because we’re very mindful of our responsibilities to our families and whanau.”
Irene Cooper noted that every union member in the country is entitled to attend two paid union meetings a year, in work time, to discuss important issues, under the Employment Relations Act 2000. She says Mr English is misinformed when he claims the issues being discussed are not significant and could have been handled by NZEI’s site reps by holding meetings in school staff rooms.
“The issues being discussed are extremely significant,” says Irene Cooper. “We’re talking about the excessive workload of primary teachers’ and principals and major changes to the teachers’ career structure”
Surveys by NZEI and the NZ Council of Education Research show that teachers are working 50 or more hours a week.
“Primary teachers work before and after school, during lunch breaks and on the weekends. Tokoroa teacher, Lois Dear, was killed in her classroom while working on a Sunday,” says Irene Cooper.
“Proposals for the re-design of the teachers’ career structure, being discussed at the meetings, are probably the most significant changes for primary teachers since they gained pay parity with secondary teachers.”
NZEI has been working on these issues with the Ministry of Education and the School Trustees Association for two years as part of a Long Term Work Programme (LTWP). This was established when the union negotiated the current primary teachers’ collective agreement in 2004.
“We’ve done a lot of detailed work in these areas and work site reps simply aren’t in a position to pass this complex information onto teachers and principals in their staff rooms,” says Irene Cooper. “This is why we needed to hold these meeting, and to hold them in school time.”
“It’s vital as many teachers and principals as possible are able to attend the meetings so they can be given the information, ask questions and provide feedback, on these major issues,” says Irene Cooper.