Today, Angela Roberts (PPTA) and Louise Green (NZEI) announced unprecedented joint action on Government funding proposals. The proposals are not welcome and are very much seen as a threat to the New Zealand education system – a threat that could lead to increased class sizes, less qualified teachers, fewer support staff and so it goes on.
Teachers, Support Staff, Principals and parents all need to be aware of what is being proposed and the impacts it could have. At the moment, few are being consulted with, and those that are ‘in the tent’ are under a gagging order, preventing them from telling the rest of us what is truly being proposed.
Here, Angela Roberts and Louise Green explain why they, as heads of the two NZ teachers’ unions, have taken the huge step of calling paid union meetings (PUM) for both unions together in order to look at the proposals:
The Paid Union Meetings will be held around the country between 5 and 16 September, starting with Auckland Town Hall on 5 September, Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre on 6 September and Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena on 7 September.
Meetings will be held at either 9am or 1.30pm to minimise disruption to teaching programmes, children and parents.
Featured image courtesy of NZEI & PTTA.
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?
In 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
This article speaks to the necessity for teachers unions to work together and applies as much to New Zealand as it does to the UK:
“An analysis of the different agendas reveals common commitments to:
Read more via Can united teachers’ unions turn the tide?.
The Ministry of Education’s recommendations, released yesterday, are that all teaching staff in charter schools be qualified and registered, asserting that this would be the best way to ensure students get the best learning opportunities.
It stated that “Teacher registration is one the most influential levers in raising teacher quality across the profession in both state and private schools. Allowing charter schools to stand outside this work will significantly damage the credibility of the Crown.“
Parata happily spouted that “…there will not be a requirement that 100 per cent of the teaching staff have registration as a full teacher.”
I am yet to meet anyone, anywhere that can see any good educational reason for this.
First of all, the government itself has gone on and on and on about needing to raise the standard of teachers. They’ve spent ages trying to convince anyone who will listen that it’s all about quality, quality, quality. So just how does that tally with this move? It’s beyond bizarre. All of the usual suspects, including John Banks, Hekia Parata and John Key have curiously failed to offer anything even approaching an explanation or justification for this rather random decision.
Secondly, there is already the ‘limited authority to teach’ provision, for people who want to teach and are deemed to have relevant skills but who have not been through formal teacher training. Yet charter school staff won’t even have to pass the criteria for ‘limited authority’. Why not? How come there is going to be one rule for charter schools and another for other schools? What possible reason is there?
Why would the Government ignore its own Ministry, teachers, unions, parents, professors of education and lord knows who else and just forge ahead with this folly?
Could it be that Charter Schools can be run for profit and therefore cost cutting is deemed of more importance than quality?
Is it okay to use our children as guinea pigs in an experiment that is not succeeding world-wide?
Or are our children being sold down the river for a profit?