Kindergarten teachers in New Zealand went on strike on 8 Dec in unprecedented numbers to protect the quality of education they provide to 45,000 children and families throughout the country.
They were involved in strike activities in 22 cities and towns throughout the country. There were rallies and marches in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Whangarei, Gisborne,Napier, Hastings, New Plymouth, Hawera, Wanganui, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Nelson, Ashburton, Timaru, Twizel, Oamaru, Gore, Queenstown and Invercargill. There were parents and children supporting the striking teachers at every single rally.
Throughout the country more than 2000 teachers, parents and children took part in the strike activities. “The level of support for the striking teachers from families with children enrolled at kindergartens has been overwhelming,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Colin Tarr. "
This is because parents share the teachers’ concerns about the working conditions the Ministry of Education and the kindergarten associations are trying to impose on the teachers.” “Families and teachers know that the employers demands will erode the quality of education provided to the 45,000 children enrolled in kindergartens.” “The fact that this is only the third time in 121 years that kindergarten teachers have taken national strike action shows how serious the situation is,” says Colin Tarr.
The decision by kindergarten teachers to strike followed a break down in their negotiations for a new collective employment agreement. The talks with the Ministry of Education, New Zealand Kindergartens Incorporated and the Zealand Federation of Free Kindergartens broke down because the employers are demanding changes to the teachers’ working conditions they know threaten the quality of education they can provide.
The employers are: * Refusing to recognise the need for kindergarten teachers to continue having term breaks like their colleagues in primary and secondary schools. * Demanding the ability to increase the level of contact time (the time teachers work directly with children) to a level that will cause teacher burnout and will erode education quality. * Refusing to recognise the extra responsibilities shouldered by head and senior kindergarten teachers by refusing to pay them at a level that was agreed when kindergarten teachers gained pay parity with primary and secondary teachers. Negotiations were set to resume on 12 and 13 Dec. “
Kindergarten teachers are hoping that the employing parties will take notice of today’s action, and the fact that several hundred parents and children stood along side the striking teachers,” says Colin Tarr. “The teachers hope that they will acknowledge their concerns and work with them to reach a settlement that will ensure that kindergartens maintain the quality of education that they provide,” says Colin Tarr. For the details of the teachers' strike, please read NZEI's press release dated 9 Dec: http://goblin.hosts.net.nz/nzei.org.nz/media_centre/documents/KINDERGARTENSTRIKERELEASE.doc More information is available from the NZEI Te Riu Roa website: www.nzei.org.nz