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Education, Education Unions, New Zealand, NZEI, PPTA

Should NZEI and PPTA amalgamate?

UK teachers’ unions, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) are looking at merging to become a united force.

NUT and ATL are not the only teaching unions in the UK, so a merger would not mean all teachers and lecturers were in one single union. It wouldn’t mean one united force for all teachers.  But it would bring together the NUT’s 330,000 members and the ATL’s 124,000 members to create a far bigger force of almost half a million teachers and lecturers.

Should NZ teachers’ unions consider the same thing?

NZEI and PPTA

merger1In New Zealand, the NZEI has around 50,000 members, whilst PPTA has well over 17,000 members. Joining forces would make one super-union of around 67,000 members – not on the scale of the proposed merger of the NUT and ATL, but significant none-the-less. But is it needed and is it wanted?

NZEI and PPTA often follow the same or similar paths and policies but not always. For example, PPTA refused to put forward candidates for the then soon-to-be-formed Education Council, preferring not to engage at all with what they deemed to be a flawed situation, while NZEI opted to put forward candidates on the basis that if the formation of the Education Council was a fait accompli then they may as well be part of shaping it. Both paths have merit, and I don’t intend to debate them here, offering them only as an example of where the unions have gone down different paths and to ask whether one united voice in an amalgamated NZ teachers’ union is even possible.

Disagreement and Democracy

Disagreement between members is no barrier to a good, democratic, working union. Indeed, it’s exactly as one would expect in a democratic institution where everyone has a voice. There are already diverse views within each union, and that’s a positive thing. Both NZEI and PPTA are excellent at canvassing their members and making decisions through democratic representation so that the majority voice is represented.  So disagreement per se is not a barrier to a merger.

Barriers

So if amalgamation would give a united front, and all members would still have a voice, why not merge NZEI and PPTA?   One thing to consider is that perhaps amalgamation would be a negative thing:

Maybe it’s beneficial to have two distinct sets of representation at the table when changes are being proposed, irrespective of whether those views are different or the same? When there are not many organisations consulted, perhaps two sets of school representation is better than one?

It’s also worth considering whether amalgamation would dilute the strong focus each union currently has on a particular sector, to the detriment of both? Is bigger necessarily better?

For any number of reasons, it may not be what each union’s members want – and if there is no interest from members, then that’s that.

Consideration

One would hope, given the sustained attack new Zealand’s public education system from ECE to High School is under, the pros and cons of a merger to create a stronger unified voice would be given serious consideration.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

~ Dianne

Note: These views are entirely my own and do not necessarily represent those of the NZEI, of which I am a member and a branch secretary. I have not consulted with PPTA or NZEI or any other union or body before writing this, merely offering my ponderings as sparked by the news of a proposed merger of UK unions.

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

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Should NZEI and PPTA amalgamate?

  1. We already have the problem in NZEI of too many disparate groups, principals often belong but don’t feel the same about issues as classroom teachers so have formed other groups(NZPF, APPA, etc) to push their agendas. The two sectors view education very differently and often the unions hold radically opposing positions. PPTA also seem to be able to mobilise their members whereas NZEI leadership are always telling us the members don’t want to rock the boat. I would love to see more dialogue and cooperation between the two but don’t see a merger working.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Greg Patel | May 16, 2016, 11:14 am
  2. If someone could tell me what NZEI have ever done to better the conditions of PPTA members, please enlighten me. NZEI get the pay rises we bargain for our members, so effectively we get less pay, as we always have to factor that in when we go to the bargaining table. I am a unionist to the core, but if there was to be an amalgamation, I would resign rather than stand shoulder to shoulder with NZEI.

    Like

    Posted by Trudy | May 16, 2016, 4:01 pm

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