Government challenged by teacher strikes

Jacinda Ardern criticised teachers for striking ‘too soon’, rearranged her diary in order to speak to a crowd of protesting teachers at Parliament, but one response from teachers was to follow up with a two day strike to keep the pressure on the Government.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, long a champion of teachers’ unions, seems out of his comfort zone under ‘friendly’ fire. Gezza commented:

From the comments he made in a sound bite on 1ewes last night, Hipkins sounded very disappointed and annoyed with the teachers at their protest outside Parliament that day, as though they were an ungrateful lot, and wondered if his testy attitude in this exchange showed that, while Ardern can hack it, he was feeling the pressure !

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern changes her mind, and meets teachers at Parliament

Jacinda Ardern watched the thousands of teachers “streaming” to Parliament to protest pay and conditions and decided she had to address them.

The prime minister had said this morning she was unavailable to meet the thousands of striking primary and intermediate teachers, but would be sending senior ministers.

But Ardern appeared, unscheduled, alongside Education Minister Chris Hipkins at the march and asked them for more time to solve their concerns

The education minister addressed the large crowd, acknowledging the tough decision many had made to be there.

“They are raising some raising some serious and legitimate concerns beyond pay to things like workload and the conditions they face in their schools.

“While he said the Government was listening “very carefully” to educators and their plight, however fronting additional money remained off the table.”

“I would prefer if we spent some time around the negotiating table working through all of the issues that teachers have raised before they start talking about more strike action.”

I’m sure Hipkins would prefer talking in private to teacher unions – this is just the opening round from primary school teachers, with secondary teachers likely to be lining up too for substantial pay rises.

Primary teachers are asking for a 16% increase.

Ardern tried to get onside ny playing the ‘care about children’ card:

Ardern said her motivation in politics was the welfare of children, the same thing that motivated most teachers.

“I don’t see them and us, I just see us.”

There is very much a them and us over wage negotiations.

Tracy Watkins: Will she, won’t she? PM Jacinda Ardern’s political gamble with teachers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision to front the teacher unions as they marched on Parliament was supposedly a last minute change of heart.

She had earlier told Stuff she would not be available. But apparently Ardern was moved by the sight of thousands of people streaming through Parliament’s gate.

As a political gesture to placate some of those teachers, parents, and supporters who descended on Parliament to voice their anger, it probably worked.

But Ardern’s appeal to them as fellow members of a common cause may have jarred with some as a case of the Government talking out of both sides of its mouth.

Reading the placards, Ardern reminded the marchers she sympathised with their intent  – even while the Government has been talking tough on the teachers demands.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has all but labelled the teacher play claims as unreasonable and Ardern stoked the fires on Wednesday when she implied in an interview with Stuff that teachers had been too precipitous in launching strike action after just one round of negotiations.

But Ardern’s attempt to sweet talk the teachers doesn’t seem to have worked.

NZH: Teachers look for new pay offer to avert further strike

Primary teachers are looking for a new offer from the Government to stave off a potential two-day strike after a successful first strike today.

NZ Educational Institute lead negotiator Liam Rutherford said the union was willing to negotiate when it meets Ministry of Education officials again on Thursday and Friday next week, but it expected the ministry to give some ground.

“It’s the job of the ministry to bring an offer that they think is going to be addressing our issues to the table,” he said.

“We are going to be hoping that the effect of having 30,000 teachers and parents in support out on the street will have led to some movement.”

He said the union’s strategy had been led by the members, who wanted to strike because they were frustrated by the ministry’s “insulting” first offer.

“It was the teachers of this country that asked to turn a proposed half-day strike into a full-day strike,” he said.

Now they are talking of a follow-up two day strike.

It’s usually quite easy for Ardern and Hipkins to brush off attacks from their political Opposition, but this friendly fire from teachers could be somewhat more challenging for them.

Ardern’s championing of children in particular make things difficult, with teachers claiming that their pay claims are necessary for the good of the children.

Speaking at the protest yesterday may have had a temporary calming effect, but teachers seem to be on a mission regardless.


As an aside, a teacher playing the baby card – or more accurately. Using family of a politician in a campaign, was probably inevitable given the attention that has been given to Ardern’s baby…

…but this is a troubling sign.