Coast teachers supported in day of strike action

The national teachers’ strike on Wednesday, August 15, will be felt on the Hibiscus Coast, with primary schools closed and large numbers of teachers catching the Gulf Harbour ferry and buses to get to the Queen Street march and rally.

No local protest action has been formally planned for the day.

To raise awareness of the reasons for the strike among parents, Gulf Harbour School held a Dress up as a Teacher day on August 3, which students enthusiastically took part in.

Teachers handed out flyers and spoke with parents at drop off time.

Principal Mel Crosbie says they emphasised that the strike is not primarily about pay but about the quality of education that can be provided. She says teachers are leaving the profession in large numbers, often after only teaching for a few years. A large percentage of teachers have reached retirement age, and schools often get no applicants for advertised positions. Finding relievers can be very difficult.

Mel says a combination of these issues puts pressure on teachers, as well as lowering goodwill and morale. “Teachers come into work when they are sick, to save their colleagues the stress of a split class or their class not having a teacher,” she says.

Louie Rong, who has twins at Gulf Harbour School, says he was shocked to read the handout and learn of the situation that the teachers are in. Louie, who comes from China, says the teachers have his total support.

“People think that in the West, places like New Zealand, the quality of education is really good and assume that teachers are well paid and supported,” he says. That’s what I thought too until I read this.”

Mel says she and the teachers are going down to the Queen Street march en masse by ferry, with their banners, to fight the cause.

“We do not like causing disruption to our students and their families, but things must change,” she says.

The Ministry of Education’s offer was rejected by the Primary teachers’ union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, in part because it failed to address workload issues. The offer would have seen teachers’ base salaries increase 6.1–14.7 percent over three years and principals’ by 6-11 percent.