"Absolutely I'm pissed off" - NZ Māori Principals' Assoc. president

By Raniera Harrison

The president of Te Akatea - the New Zealand Māori Principals' Association is furious at a lack of real solutions for teacher concerns.

This comes as hundreds of Northland primary and intermediate teachers went on strike today, calling for better working conditions and support.

Te Akatea president and current principal of Whangārei's Ōtangarei School, Myles Ferris says, "Absolutely I'm pissed off.  The offer that they have spoken goes nowhere near resolving a lot of the issues that we have."

The trade union New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI Te Riu Roa) announced it would go ahead with rolling strikes this week despite a new offer from the Ministry of Education worth $698mil over three years.

Their sentiments were echoed by numerous principals and teachers including Jamie McQueen, principal of Whangaruru School.

"We are still in disarray because we have a huge workload, yet the pay scale is not reflective of that," says McQueen.

The Ministry of Education's latest offer, presented last Thursday, followed four days of facilitated bargaining under the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).  The chair of the Tai Tokerau Principals' Association is calling for more action.

"He is the minister.  Chris, you're in the hot seat, you produce.  I'm that angry that if I had my way, I would say to all of the teachers, 'don't start schools in February next year until you've got a pay claim settled'," says Newman, addressing Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins.

Teachers have said that the action is not about 'a pay rise', but providing support for those children most in need.

"Sometimes they are referred to agencies but agencies take too long to pick them up, so it's up to the teachers in the schools to provide support for them in the meantime," says Neke Adams of Whangārei intermediate School, who has been working in the profession for nearly 20 years.

Many say the government's unwillingness to move on an earlier offer to raise pay scales by 3 percent a year for three years is disrespectful to the profession.

"My teachers are working 60-70 hours a week already.  I'm doing that.  it's not fair, it's not on and they feel that they have to just to maintain the standards that we've set," says Ferris.

Tomorrow, primary and intermediate teachers in Christchurch will hit the streets, followed by Wellington on Friday.