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Strike action looking likely: primary principals vote next week

Salary increases for teachers fought for earlier this year have meant that some primary principals will be earning less than their deputy counterparts.

Calls for a new collective agreement quickly rose as primary principals cut ties with the Ministry and await next week’s vote on strike action. 

Primary and intermediate principals who are members of NZEI Te Riu Roa will vote on whether to increase strike action at a series of nationwide paid union meetings next week from 12 to 15 August.

The proposed strike would escalate principals’ current action, which has seen them disengage from Ministry of Education meetings and communication since 8 July, and would include a full day stoppage of work on 22 August. The strike would also extend disengagement from the Ministry until 11 October and withdraw principals’ involvement in the review of Tomorrow’s Schools.

762 primary school board chairs circulated a public letter to Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and Secretary for Education, Iona Holsted, last week, demanding a better offer for principals. 

“Primary principals do an amazing job for their schools and communities, and we think they deserve a collective agreement offer that reflects their considerable skills and responsibilities,” the letter read.

“We believe that it is a matter of fairness and common sense that primary principals should have parity with their secondary school counterparts. If pay parity is fair for teachers, as the government has acknowledged, then surely it is fair for principals too.

“The principals in our schools have our full support for their current strike action in which they are disengaging from the Ministry of Education and focussing solely on their schools. We urge you to move quickly to propose a settlement that will address the issues that principals face and ensure we can attract and keep excellent leaders in these vital roles.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa National Executive member and principal of Berhampore School, Mark Potter, said the strike ballot following the Ministry’s failure to revise their collective agreement offer, address principal wellbeing, and ensure pay parity between primary and secondary principals.

“Primary principals rejected the Ministry’s offer in June with a clear message: if parity between primary and secondary is fair for teachers, then surely it’s fair for principals. The job of a principal is complex, but that complexity doesn’t change with the size of our students’ shoes,” he said.

“It’s crucial we’re able to attract senior teachers into principal positions and retain them. We’ll only do that if they get more support and a fair deal.”

“We had hoped we would be voting on an improved offer at next week’s meetings. There is still time for that to happen, but absent anything last-minute from the Ministry we will be discussing increasing our action and applying more pressure.”

The paid union meetings are being held between 12 and 15 August, and will follow a nationwide day of support for principals this Friday 9 August. School staff and communities around the country are organising school gate activities and wearing green to show their ongoing support for their principals.

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