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Members of New Zealand teacher unions unite in largest teachers' strike in New Zealand history

Almost 50,000 New Zealand teachers take to the streets to advocate for a higher education budget.

Education International supports the almost 50,000 New Zealand primary and secondary school teachers and principals who came together on Tuesday, 28th of May for the largest teacher strike ever held in New Zealand. The strike closed schools nation-wide with 700,000 students.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has offered a NZ1.2 billion increase in the education budget, the “biggest offer in decades,” deeming the strike a success. Although a step in the right direction, New Zealand teachers, through their unions, believe a higher budget is needed. They have also called for a reduced workload.  

All four of EI’s New Zealand member organisations participated in the strike: the Independent Schools Education Association Inc. (ISEA), the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI Te Riu Roa), the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association (NZPPTA), and the New Zealand Tertiary Education Union (NZTEU).

NZEI President Lynda Stuart spoke to a crowd at a rally in the capital of Auckland, warning that there would be further strikes if the government did not go further.

The PPTA’s goals include a 15 percent pay raise over one year, measures to benefit managers, and non-contract time to be increased from five to six hours for full-time teachers.

The NZEI is advocating a 16 percent pay rise over a two-year period, a renewal of secondary teacher salary comparability clauses, the removal of the salary qualifications cap, and sufficient resources for each school to have a special needs coordinator.

Before the strike, teacher unions had been negotiating with the government for higher wages and shorter hours, but negotiations had ended in a standstill. The strike came a day before the government released its “Wellbeing” budget, aimed to improve New Zealanders’ living  and social standards and services.