'Pay is not why we do it' – why the upcoming teachers strike's about more than just money

When New Zealand’s primary and secondary school teachers unite in a strike at the end of this month, money will be the last thing on the minds of the 50,000 expected to take part.

Source: 1 NEWS

Protesting issues including class sizes, under-resourced staff and a lack of support for students with special needs and learning difficulties, primary teachers will take action for the third time since August 2018, this time joined by their secondary school colleagues for the biggest industrial strike New Zealand has seen.

The Government’s offer of a nine per cent pay rise – worth $1.2 billion - over a three year period has been rejected by unions.

Teachers are instead wanting assurances over concerns previously addressed to those determining fund allocation, rather than just a simple pay rise in the hope of fixing a "broken system".

Auckland primary teacher Samantha McRae will be one of those taking time out of the classroom to protest the latest offer, adamant that the strike is the worst possible outcome for all of those involved.

"It’s a necessary evil," she told 1 NEWS.

"Yes, we get the Government taking notice – but at the same time we lose money and the kids lose time in the classroom.

"We don’t want there to have to be a strike, but we can’t think of any other ways to make the Government take notice.

"At this point we don’t know how effective a one day strike will be, but the harsher week-long or indefinite strikes that would get the message across would be catastrophic for students and staff."


Suggestions that the impending strike is centred solely on money are entirely false, Miss McRae says, with a simple pay rise being an attempt at a quick fix rather than addressing the real issue.

"You talk to any teacher and you know that’s not true," she continued. "The fight is that they’ve not responded to any of the other needs.

"Yes, a pay rise would be great for anybody, but it’s still not going to help us address the need for decreased workloads and more resources. It’s not going to get more people into the job – or keep the teachers we currently have.

“The offer is not enough for what we need. It’s not going to cover it.

"Pay is not why we do it. The offer we need is for within the classroom. It’s not about the pay rise, teachers don’t do it for the money."

After returning to New Zealand to teach at the start of this year, having worked abroad in London, Miss McRae spoke of the stark contrast of being in the education system under the current structure, compared to when she left for the UK in 2016.

"There is more need for change then I remember.

"Our workload hasn’t changed for the better in any way, but we’re now spending more time striking and trying to get what we need to do best by our students.


The current under-resourcing and support for primary and secondary teachers within New Zealand has even gotten so bad, many are considering leaving either the country or the industry itself, something Miss McRae admits to weighing up before the latest offer.

The only saving grace comes in the love for her job, and the students she teaches.

"I love the teaching job, love the kids.

"I don’t mind the planning, I enjoy crafting a programme for my students - but there’s no time within the working day to get everything done, seeing many teachers have to take their work home with them.

"A lot of teachers consider going elsewhere because the workload is too much. But you stay because of the kids."

With a current shortage of primary and secondary teachers across New Zealand, Miss McRae is hoping that the day-to-day struggles of teachers like herself will be bought to the attention of the Government, explaining how under resourced and undervalued Kiwi educators are under the present circumstances.

"There’s a lot of kids, we have maybe two teacher aides for our team, so us and the children get some extra help - but you don’t get as much one-on-one time with the kids as you would want.

"You’re spending all your time creating resources or doing other admin that you can’t spend on your kids."

New Zealand’s primary and secondary school teachers will strike on May 29.

The Ministry of Education is seeking an immediate return to facilitated bargaining, in a bid to stave off the action, which will affect hundreds-of-thousands of students and their families. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has repeatedly said there is no more money available. The Government has offered $1.2 billion.