Mega march on parliament

By Tema Hemi

Thousands of teachers marched on parliament today, voicing their frustrations following failed talks with the education ministry. Teachers from primary and secondary teacher unions say more strike action is likely.

A mega march for a mega strike by our country's teachers, aimed at highlighting the stress of the situation.

Wellington Girls College Māori teacher Keta Kaiwai-Herbert says, "The minister has said to wait and be patient, but the livelihood and the health of the teacher is put under duress. It's the families and the children of the teacher, who have to wear the burden of that stress."

It's no wonder then that this is the response from the teachers to the minister.

"We'll wait and see if the minister is correct in his response. But, he needs to think carefully in terms of a strategy to uplift and provide solutions for teachers who are struggling," says Kaiwai-Herbert. 

Teachers' unions say that the government is insufficiently prioritising the education crisis. Both teachers' unions overwhelmingly reject the Ministry of Education offer, which boils down to three pay rises of 3% each. The ministry says about 24,000 teachers would see a pay boost of $10,000 within two years, more than $1.2 billion in four years.

The Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) says their main concern is with classroom related issues.

"Addressing our issues and concerns inside our classrooms and then the final part is the pay equity for us kaiako. The big thing for us is the time allowance and the resources needed," says the PPTA's Anthony Irwin.

The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) emphasised that the government should listen rather than tell teachers what's best for them.

"Please listen to the teachers, please listen to the principals. Listen to what our needs are, not providing what you think we need, but providing us with our own needs," says NZEI's Lovi Collier.

Tempers were running high at today's march, with frustration aimed at Minister Hipkins during his speech, but Kaiwai-Herbert says this was warranted.

"We are too worn out by the stress to be angry. I fully support the cries and the chants that I have heard at today's protest. We are fed up with being overworked and too long hours of work."

It appears that strike action won't be restricted to only one day, as union representatives say that more strike action is likely if the government doesn't listen.