Gordon Campbell on the (lack of an) end game for the teachers strikeFirst published on Werewolf
Currently, the education sector looks like one of those games of American football where its hard to keep your eye on
where the ball is, and where ministerial quarterback Chris Hipkins is trying to throw it. Neither side seems to have
much of a plan for advancing to the end zone. Somehow, a dispute that supposedly isn’t about the money requires more
money to break the impasse.
As we all know, on May 29 – the day before the Budget – both the PPTA secondary teachers union and the NZEI primary
teachers union will be on strike. The strike action comes in the wake of nearly a year’s failed negotiations, and the
rejection of several previous pay offers. At this point, the government’s education pay offer reportedly amounts (in
total) to circa $1.2 billion spread over four years. This is comprised of a $698 million pay improvement package for
primary teachers and principals, and a $500m package for secondary teachers. Since taking office, the coalition
government has also provided more funding for learning support (ie special needs and learning support co-ordinators)
scrapped charter schools and national standards, and carried out a review of Tomorrow's Schools.
NCEA has also been reviewed. Yesterday, the government announced it would be assisting 145,000 families by scrapping the
$76.70 fee for the examination, which has also been streamlined in ways that seem likely to reduce teacher assessment workloads
In the upcoming Budget, there will be a $95 million package spread over four years
to fund an extra 3,280 teachers over that period, and which will be allocated as follows:
• 1860 TeachNZ scholarships - fees and living costs for trainees studying in hard to staff subject areas,
• 300 Teach First NZ places to recruit graduates and professionals into low decile secondary schools where they teach
while completing a postgraduate degree,
• 240 places in a new employment-based teacher education programme for secondary teachers, and
• 80 iwi-based scholarships.
[The package] also supports 800 more beginning teachers into their first roles through the National Beginning Teacher
Grant and the Voluntary Bonding Scheme expansion.
Now… as PPTA president Jack Boyle says, this Budget package is really just a ‘band-aid’ that will barely cover the
projected growth in student numbers and the rate of teachers leaving the profession. As Boyle puts it:
The reason there are teacher shortages are threefold: the salary isn’t competitive with other careers, teacher workload
is unreasonably high and the attrition rate for newly graduated teachers is nearing the 50 percent mark within 5 years.
The 3280 teachers promised by the government will mostly be needed to replace departing teachers and to cope with roll
According to the PPTA, the government’s numbers are based on Ministry of Education modelling that “massively”
underestimates the scale of the shortages. “Saying you’ll magic up a couple of thousand more teachers,” Boyle
concludes,” without addressing the underlying reasons why there’s a teacher shortage in the first place, is
Maybe so. Yet it is equally magical thinking to expect an overnight fix for the ‘underlying reasons’ for teacher
shortages. Any one of the measures outlined above – including the pay offer on the table – would have been regarded as
major victories if they’d been won under the previous administration. Unfortunately, the entire country is still in
catch-up mode. New Zealand has just emerged from a nine year ideologically-driven neglect of public health and state
education under National, who (incredibly) have been trying to paint themselves this week as the champions of higher
The upshot is that many sectors, including mental health, are now seeking to recover from those nine years of inadequate
funding. Currently, the public are still generally onside with the efforts to make up lost ground. Last year for
example, the nurses’ fight for better pay and conditions drew on a deep well of public gratitude for the courageous and
determined way that nurses had kept an essential public service afloat, while National was systematically starving it of
funds. Even so, the nurses could not (and did not) take that enduring public support for granted. All along, better pay
rates were a key part of that equation – yet the nurses were always at pains to stress they were fighting for patient
safety, standards of care, and nursing recruitment and retention.
In identical fashion, teachers have earned the public sympathy and support they currently enjoy. They too, are stressing that recruitment and retention – and
related workloads – must be dealt with adequately in any resolution of the current crisis that the profession faces. The
teacher unions have also been right to point out that the government and the Education bureaucrats have both been
over-stating the generosity of the current package for new teachers. Yet the more this fight is framed in terms of money
– without clarity on the transformative educational goals the extra money would deliver beyond what’s already on the
table – then public support may well begin to erode. The PPTA has been talking of five more weeks of possible industrial
action beyond May 29.
The timing of the upcoming strike seems odd. This major strike will be held the day before the Budget eclipses all other
news coverage for much of the succeeding week, and this Budget in particular will be a showcase for the government’s
claim that it is addressing the needs of social wellbeing. By taking the fight all the way to the Budget gates, the teacher unions will
have shown their membership that they’ve gone the distance. Subsequently though, the climate will be even tougher for
the end game, of the coming back and demanding more.
That trade “war” with China
Some Trump apologists (such as Arkansas senator Tom Cotten) are taking the trade war metaphor literally. On CBS
yesterday, Cotton told US farmers suffering from China’s tit-for-tat targeted tariffs that hey, stop complaining and just be grateful that you’re not dead
There will be some sacrifice on the part of Americans, I grant you that. But also that sacrifice is pretty minimal
compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas that are fallen heroes or laid to rest…"
In similar vein, even Mothers Day last Sunday was militarised by the Trump White House
"I want to express our incredible appreciation to all of you. The moms serving our Nation in uniform, the mothers of our
great heroes, and the moms with spouses who serve in the armed forces: your unwavering dedication and support
strengthens our entire Nation."
Somehow, Trump managed to tweet-storm his way through Mothers Day without mentioning Melania, the mother of three of
their five children. As almost the entire Internet noted, this was in stark contrast with the message from Barack Obama
Meanwhile, on the front lines of what could easily turn into a real shooting war between the US and Iran, things are
going from bad to worse. Supposedly, two or three oil tankers have been damaged while sailing near the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran denies responsiblity. The accusations of tanker ‘sabotage’ are being made by those ever-reliable Saudi and UAE governments
This alleged escalation in the Strait of Hormuz comes right after the US had shifted bombers and an aircraft carrier
into the region after claiming there were “clear indications” Iran or its proxies were about to attack US forces in the region
Those with long memories will recall the Tonkin Gulf incident, a trivial skirmish between a couple of US destroyers and
three North Vietnamese torpedo boats that the US amped up into a justification for vastly expanding the Vietnam war
In response, President Johnson ordered air strikes against North Vietnamese boat bases and an oil storage depot.
“Aggression by terror against the peaceful villagers of South Vietnam has now been joined by open aggression on the high
seas against the United States of America,” he said that evening in a televised address. He also requested a
congressional resolution, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which on August 7 passed unanimously in the House and
with only two dissenting votes in the Senate, essentially giving him the power to wage war in Southeast Asia as he saw
Because the Tonkin Gulf was later seen to have been a bogus pretext, Congress later imposed restrictions (via the 1973
War Powers Act) on the unfettered presidential power to wage war. Thanks to the conflict the Trump administration is
deliberately stoking with Iran, that balance of powers may soon be tested again. After all, the waging of a war with
Iran (that Congressional Democrats and the Europeans would certainly oppose) could be Trump’s best re-election strategy
for next year.
How’m I Doin’?
From the education front lines to the Strait of Hormuz, there’s a ton of self-justification in the air. Here’s the Mills
Brothers with an engaging 1944 anthem for the self-satisfied:
There’s a modern version of that same Mills Brothers song online, by the trio called Mountain Man. All of Mountain Man
showed up for this great live version of “Die Young” by Amelia Meath’s other group, Sylvan Esso:
And from a couple of weeks ago, here’s another Mountain Man member – namely, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig – who is now
recording under the name of Daughter of Swords, with a lovely, ethereal track called “Dawnbreaker”…