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Communities of Learners/IES, Education, IES - "Investing in Educational Success", NZEI

Dear NZEI, your members are unhappy…



In September, NZEI informed members that we had voted to allow the NZEI Executive to continue working with the Education Minister on the Communities of Learners (CoLs) plan.

The union worded its missive carefully, saying “Seventy-one percent of principal members and 78 percent of primary teachers voting in ballots held around the country accepted the Ministry’s offer.” And this is very true. 78% of teachers and 71% of principals WHO VOTED did indeed say to go ahead. However, that is not the full picture.

What was left unsaid is that a huge proportion of members didn’t vote at all.  

And when they are factored in, the ‘yes’ vote was just over 30% of members.

And don’t think this was due to apathy – even stalwarts like myself didn’t vote!

Why, you might ask, would we miss out on having our say?

We had been given very little information to go on, and were being told that we should vote yes without being given clear reasons why. But at the same time, we didn’t have enough information to vote no. In short, we were rather in the dark.

So people abstained.

People walked out of meetings.

Some stopped listening.

People started muttering that they were seriously thinking of leaving the union altogether as they feel betrayed.

And today I heard from a union site rep who wants to resign because she can’t just sell the “dead rat” as she’s being told to do.

This is a disaster.

I love my union and unions in general – the work they do is amazing – so I don’t say this lightly at all, but on this one NZEI dropped the ball. And we deserved better.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of NZEI National President Louise Green when she said the Communities of Learners offer was “a complex and difficult decision for many people”.  The union tells us that we must keep “working together to shape the implementation of Communities and their resourcing, in order to get the best outcomes for children.” I know the Executive have worked hard and done their best. But we don’t have faith that this is what’s happening.

What many fear is that the union is making very little progress, if any, in reshaping the actual agenda for education – one that’s been revealed in unsavoury bursts, and usually while schools are on holiday.

The union must take very seriously that so many of their members are unhappy.

Almost 70% of us did NOT vote for CoLs.

It is not popular.

We are not sheep.

We are not going to vote yes just because you tell us to.

This time, please make sure the PUMs are honest, open and give plenty of clear information. Do not make them into a sales pitch like the last ones. Be honest and trust us to make the right decisions based on actual information.

You need to win your members’ trust back, and we deserve nothing less.


About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


13 thoughts on “Dear NZEI, your members are unhappy…

  1. Thanks for the this post. Like all the others I receive I forward it on to all the staff members at my school. I am the NZEI work site rep and voted against the CoL proposal. I am in the process of cancelling my membership with the union, and obviously resigning the role of worksite rep at school. I can no longer trust the union to do the right thing for teachers or children. It is a very hard thing for me to do as I really believe in the power of unions, but not the NZEI any longer, the have rolled over and let the moe do what ever it wants. A very sad time. Regards Gill


    Posted by Gill Robertson | November 22, 2015, 8:43 pm
    • I went the other way and decided to be active at branch level to try to be heard. But I completely understand why someone would do as you have done, too. Sorry that the union has lost you, Gill. I hope they are able to win back your trust by doing the right thing and listening to members now. ~ Dianne


      Posted by Save Our Schools NZ | November 22, 2015, 9:04 pm
  2. Weird but that’s what I did too Dianne. Sad news, Heather Holmes told me no PUMs. It seems that small meetings are working so well for our Exec that they will only sell to site reps and Principals using the low vote count as an excuse for not letting dissenting voices be heard. I find it irritating that they make our stopwork meetings after school when so many of our members are looking after their own children or fighting Auckland traffic, when we send children home we stop working with children, when we meet after school we merely postpone work till later. Something for you to contemplate: NZEI has a disproportionate number of principals on the exec, strangely, Principals’ salary and conditions have been rocketing ahead of teachers’ for a while now, Principals have NZPF, APPA(I assume other areas have the same). Is it time we had a teacher union that excludes Principals?


    Posted by Greg Patel | November 22, 2015, 9:39 pm
  3. Thank you for providing the full picture – this has enabled me as a site rep to have further discussions with my field officer. I believe the NZEI should have said to us – we have tried to improve the plan so we can use the money in a way teachers believe would be more productive, but we couldn’t get more than minor adjustments.


    Posted by juliettelaird | November 22, 2015, 9:44 pm
  4. Thank you for voicing these concerns. I am strongly in favour of the Union but feel they have become very battle weary and have consequently lost their edge. The vote in September left me feeling angry, both with the Union and with myself. I belief we have sold ourselves short by not standing up in force and saying a resounding ‘NO!’ – myself included (hence my anger at myself) – consequently we are headed down a destructive Government led path which is going to have serious consequences for schools, principals, teachers, and ultimately students. Somehow we all need to find a way to negate this only I’m not sure how.


    Posted by Fiona Howard | November 22, 2015, 10:06 pm
  5. well – I reckon that if we didn’t work to change the COS to the COL – which are more holistic and include ece and are about the kids journey, not the structure like cos – then the govt would have imposed COS . There were already 10% of school signed up to Cos in september so there couldn’t have been a 100% anti campaign.
    If members didn’t attend the meetings to vote then IMO that means they didn’t deem it important enough to vote on. There were no occasions in my area where a member responded to the meeting notices to say they weren’t coming for a reason. I’m sure that if 90% of membership had turned out to vote and voted no then we would be in a different space – a Union is only as strong as its members and if members don’t take part in the process of having their voice heard then where is the perceived strength to stand up and say no to something?
    All this discussion is doing now is serving the Government to divide members and distract them from the fact that they are now changing the Education act – that is where we should be focussing – and on building something in the CoL – which we now have due to the vote outcome ( it’s in the rules, what members vote is what happens – this is a union) that benefits all communities, teachers and children. by continuing to beat up Unions you are just playing into this Govt’s hands

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Dowie | November 23, 2015, 10:16 am
    • I agree that a union is as strong as its members, and if this many members are frustrated (even angry in some cases) at how this has been handled, then it’d pay the union to take notice rather than make excuses. It would be a poor show if we railed at the government every time they got something wrong but covered up or made excuses every time the union got something wrong. Both are equally accountable. So how do we get this mess sorted and get members back onside? ~ Dianne


      Posted by Save Our Schools NZ | November 23, 2015, 10:36 am
      • Well – IMO we regroup as a united force and focus on the Education Act ‘review’ first and foremost – it’s a major game changer.

        We remember that CoL’s are actually voluntary – so if a school or ece doesn’t want to be involved it doesn’t have to.

        We recognise that ALL members who are in schools/ece that opt in to the CoL’s must push to be involved and have a say in the CoL’s that are now being set up. They need to make sure that IF a school/ece signs up then they have truly got the outcomes they want for that CoL from the govt. So if it’s ‘well being’ the community wants as a measure in the community then they push for that! The govt didn’t allow that in CoS so members must push to get it in the CoL if that’s what they want!

        We also ensure every single person in a school submits on the Education Act review and Every school and ece does as well – this is where we need a very, very strong voice right now.

        But most of all – every disgruntled and/or supportive member MUST act to get their fellow members, and prospective members to any meetings that are called and any local activities. We cannot afford to have people who are apathetic when the very basis of our education system is under threat. Unless every member cares and becomes involved then the union is not as strong as it can be!

        IMO if NZEI members hadn’t pushed for change, and change was accomplished even if not as much as we would like, then we would be saddled with compulsory COS by now. It was only collective strength that has forestalled that and provided the opportunity to be involved in a better way of doing things that we would have had foisted upon us.

        Every member has the opportunity to have a voice – every member should use any and every opportunity to have their say. So if there are full up meetings next year for negotiations, or local meetings for whatever- or meetings for professional development or local union structures – we should be encouraging anyone and everyone to attend these.
        That’s how a strong union works and becomes stronger.
        United we stand – divided we fall. But it takes everyone to actually care and want to make a difference – not just a smaller % – there’s no power in that and this govt knows that.

        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by Dowie | November 23, 2015, 11:30 am
        • I agree with the majority of what you say, but I do have to say it’s no good saying all members have a voice when members are saying they were told how to vote on CoLs and weren’t heard when they voiced concerns. This has been said over and over again by many people, at conference, online and in person. I’ve yet to meet one single person who has faith in CoLs. I’ve seen/heard one comment from one person in months, and that was along the lines of “we’ll make it work, because that’s what we do”. That should be a concern.

          I love my union, and I respect all those working hard to get the best for our students. I just think this has been handled very badly indeed. Members are not happy. It needs addressing.

          Last thing, how voluntary are CoLs really if PD availability is directly linked to being in one? No CoL, no PD sounds like an ultimatum not good faith. The Minister is playing a canny game and seems to be holding all the dice.

          ~ Dianne


          Posted by Save Our Schools NZ | November 23, 2015, 12:03 pm
  6. I am confused by the union to be honest, Dianne. Maybe I misunderstand its core purpose? To me, a union protects and advocates for maintaining and improving member renumeration and workplace environment, (including lobbying against any potential law change that affects those things). Over and over the message I am hearing from NZEI is that we need to get a better result ‘for the children’, stand up for children, kids deserve the best, best interests of children…
    I would quite like to hear some more lobbying for getting a better result for teachers, stand up for teachers, teachers deserve the best and best interests of the teachers…
    I know it sounds incredibly selfish but teacher well being must have an incredible impact on the classroom – how can we be ‘excellent’ when we are looking at yet another pay negotiation (that undervalues new teachers with higher qualifications and experience teachers at the tip of the pay scale in equal measure) and significant change in the systems and functioning of our ‘workplace’.
    I took my union info home from the last meeting and when I put it under my husband’s nose he was perplexed… he usually deals with unions from the opposite side of the negotiation table. In his view, the new pay scale was a very business savvy way of asking teachers at the top of the scale to resign. This was not reassuring considering how a member at my PUM brought up the exact same point earlier in the day. That member was also silenced by a union delegate when she asked another question about the vote. The response I heard was that there was opportunity to have taken member submissions on the vote prior but union leadership had decided to not put that option on the table. In short, they limited our submission options in order to make a simple YES/NO vote on the day, to ensure clarity and ease confusion… our own union didn’t want to hear the views of the membership. The same delegate then said very plainly that she “shouldn’t say this” but prepare for PUM’s during work hours in the future, a statement which undermines good faith bargaining in my view and could bring negotiations to a halt. Why would a delegate put our bargaining at risk with such a silly comment… was it stupidity or a purposeful act of sabotage, I wonder?
    I’ve come to teaching from a different industry and, while I love it, I am constantly flumoxed by the actions of our union – we are so big, yet ineffective. Either those at the table are actively working against us (seriously, going in to negotiations with such a low goal/percentage increase is almost offensive in itself). The amount of dues spent on fancy purple circles with GERM monsters, the fabulous delegate retreats to Rotorua… and are we now also supporting some international charities? I would prefer to pay less to the union and get the charitable contribution tax rebate while supporting a charity of my own choosing…
    Anyhou, as I said, I am new to teaching and the NZEI and perhaps I misunderstand its core purpose for existence. I am happy to have my misunderstandings corrected by those with more insight than I.
    In my view our union appears to have lost its way in terms of advocating for its members first and foremost, it would seem I am now solely funding a political lobbying group instead.


    Posted by akoaroha | November 23, 2015, 7:33 pm
  7. All members from my worksite attended the PUM to which we were invited. Because we are an Area School we were told we weren’t allowed to vote. As worksite rep I questioned that as it seemed a really important vote. I was told that we would be given an opportunity in the near future. We are still waiting! So I’m not only feeling let down, but also disenfranchised. I’m totally disappointed by the way the vote was managed. This has left me highly suspicious of NZEI and unsure as how to advise my colleagues in the bargaining round.


    Posted by gebehebe | November 23, 2015, 9:58 pm
  8. Akoaroha, I couldn’t agree more with you.

    NZEI has lost its way badly. It has been so busy fighting things like GERM , National Standards, CoLs etc that it seems to have forgotten its core purpose, which is to advocate for those employees of schools who pay subs to be union members.

    I raised at a PUM what was happening with the pay parity that our members fought so hard to gain and then to hold, and was told that it was no longer on the table as a priority. Who decided that I wonder? Where was the consultation that our teachers union should no longer consider that important to our members?

    I have spent three years wavering as to whether to pull out of the Union. It is sad for me because I have held some important roles in the organisation over the last 15 years. There are good people in NZEI trying to achieve good things especially around special ed and support staff conditions. However the culture at the moment appears to be to engage resources towards arguing with government policy and then shrugging at members that improvements in pay and conditions are not possible. The current philosophy is wrong and the leadership needs to really remember what their core purpose is. It is not to be a union representing the interests of children and communities. It is a union paid for by support staff, teachers and principals to represent our pay and conditions negotiations. Nothing more.


    Posted by JuergenKlopp | November 24, 2015, 7:21 am

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