Should Principals splinter off and form a new union?

A Northland primary school teacher has warned the New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF) to heed the lessons of the past after it proposed the establishment of a breakaway principals’ union.

NZPF president Perry Rush has confirmed that hundreds of primary school principals have voted in favour of leaving NZEI Te Riu Roa, which represents all primary and early childhood educators, to form their own union.

Rush, principal at Hastings Intermediate School, said 850 NZPF members had voted on the proposal last month with 92 percent approving.

The union has urged its members to stay with the NZEI and warned that a new organisation would “chip away” at their collective strength.

Te Tai Tokerau Principals’ Association president and NZPF member Pat Newman is also concerned creating a new union will weaken principals’ collective voice.

In an open letter to Rush, the Hora Hora Primary School principal said he is worried the organisation is set to repeat past mistakes and that the proposed split would likely worsen outcomes for principals.

“This is not the first time this has happened,” he said. “Last time NZPF experimented like this it divided principals who were forced to choose between competing unions – and NZPF lost around 800 members in the process.”

The principals are said to be unhappy with the NZEI over three key issues: the union’s current focus on pay equity for support staff; lack of progress on workload and wellbeing problems; and last year’s collective agreement settlement.

Newman said while many principals may have hoped for better outcomes in their contract negotiations last year, history had shown that a breakaway union wouldn’t have adequate capacity or experience to conduct proper negotiations and advocate on principals’ behalf.

“The end result last time was principals ended up with individual contracts. Those negotiated by NZPF were far inferior to those negotiated by NZEI,” he said.

“My message to both organisations is that for the benefit of principals and our profession, they need to sit down and work through the issues and feelings involved and come to agreements. In that way we all win.”


David Carroll

David is a senior journalist with more than 25 years experience in Australian media, you can find more of his work in our upcoming print issues of School News magazine.
Check Also
Back to top button