New Zealand’s largest education union is keen for responses to a Council of Trade Unions’ proposal to negotiate a unified pay agreement between public sector unions and the Government.
The proposal to join negotiations will need to be voted on and approved by NZEI Te Riu Roa members, with any agreed joint pay increase also needing to be agreed by members. The Government has responded, stating it is interest in exploring a pay adjustment proposal with public sector unions.
“This is a unique approach taken by the public sector unions,” NZEI Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford said.
“We all thought, given the rise in the cost of living, increasing job demands and the pressures in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, a unified approach would be the strongest for members. What this proposal does is allow the public sector to negotiate a fair and transparent pay rise from a position of collective strength.”
“The Government is open to engaging further with the CTU and its affiliates,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins responded this week. “Taking a more strategic approach to public sector bargaining could reduce complexity and make the process more efficient and sustainable.”
“I welcome the CTU’s initiative to establish a constructive and strategic approach to settling pay rates in the public sector in the context of significant fiscal pressures for the Government and cost of living challenges for workers,” he added.
“The Public Service Commission is preparing to engage with the CTU to get a process underway – subject to a further communications from the CTU – to work through any major challenges.”
If a vote to pursue a unified pay rise is passed, union members will still negotiate non-pay elements of their individual collective agreements.
Rutherford emphasised this was still only a proposal for members to consider and NZEI Te Riu Roa remained in close dialogue with the CTU and the other public sector unions, which include the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation, Public Service Association and Post-Primary Teachers’ Association among others.
He said educators would still look to push the Government on reducing class sizes and increase staffing numbers, improve funding for students with high needs, providing greater support for school leaders and finishing the job of funding pay parity in the early childhood sector.
“We know there are a large number of issues in each area of the primary sector that our members still care deeply about and we want to fix,” he said.
“They will continue to advocate for those issues in negotiations for their collective employment agreements while our campaigns to increase education spending in Budget 2023 and get clear commitments from all parties in the lead up to next year’s election will only get stronger.”