Dearest Mike Hosking,
I hear you’ve been setting the teachers’ unions right on Seven Sharp again tonight. Good on you. I totally get where you’re coming from – they’re to blame for teacher shortages, your receding hairline and the break up of The Beatles. I’m not saying Illuminati, but….
Of course the unions will say that the government are the ones that could sanction additional payments to attract shortage staff, and that housing costs and the price of living are factors outside their control, too, and then they’ll boo-hoo about the shitty 2% pay rise they got.
They’ll not trumpet the huge starting pay teachers get – some stroll on into the job on a whopping $35,267! And ten years later, after barely any work at all, Ministry will kindly have doubled that! All that for just three or four years of full time graduate study and ten years of work and a few upskilling courses every term. That’s nearly as much as the starting wage for an IT bod! Ministry are far too generous – the 2% rise was too good for them. Bloody spongers!
But you and I know the truth, don’t we? Unlike you, who works very hard to sit there on a chair at a desk making pronouncements (a very tiring and demanding job, which they clearly don’t appreciate) and who actually earns your pay, those union bods are only in it for the money and the fame.
The unions will then rattle off that there’s a mountain of research out there showing how ineffective, and even damaging, performance pay is. Pfffft. A few piffly research studies by a few dozen professors from highly respected universities and they call that evidence. I know what I know, and the reckons of an old, white, guy who has made a sterling career out of being a radio and TV host is much more reliable that all that university crap.
The unions just don’t get it! You’re helping, for heaven’s sake! Nothing encourages more people into teaching than having the media bad-mouth the job and the people every night – it draws them in like moths.
Keep up the excellent work, my good man.
Hello all. Happy 2016, and sorry I’ve been somewhat absent, but amusing a 6 year old banshee full time is (as most of you know) not for the faint hearted, and so I’ve been somewhat distracted.
I was hoping to have another few days before I burst into action. I even avoided posting about the charter school shenanigans from last week. Perhaps I’ll reflect on that one later. For now, I want to share with you some thought on our unions…
I’ve seen a few people over the years saying they don’t know what they pay their union fees for, what’s the point joining, and so on. I saw another such comment this week, and it got me thinking that people really must not be aware of how bad things were before unions. Do people truly not know what huge benefit they are to workers? Perhaps not.
I guess if one has never worked in a non-unionised profession and seen the difference, it’s easy to take what benefit they bring for granted.
So, for those not in the know, here are just a few of the benefits of being in a union:
Wages: Your union works hard to get and maintain decent pay for us. If you think we are underpaid now, just look at the information on wages for non-unionised workers, for example…
PD: Your union provides professional development year-round. Did you know you can apply to your local branch to go on any of the union’s courses and the chances are they’ll be able to fund it for you or contribute? Coming up soon are the Pasifika Fono, the New Educators Network hui, to name but two great events. And there are all these ones. Go on – take advantage of this free and fabulous union PD.
Information: Your union keeps up to date with all of the changes and proposals relating to education and shares that information with you via branches, emails, press releases, social media, and meetings. Read the emails, check your branch’s Facebook page, go to meetings – make use of what is there. Because although the union does all this, you still have to make the effort to read it and be involved. It’s worth it.
ACET: This was hard fought for by NZEI, so that expert teachers would not have to take up management positions if they wanted to earn more but could stay in the classroom and teach. Members wanted it, the union got it. And it was achieved through hard bargaining.
Release time: This is another thing that was fought for and won. There was a time when there was no release time. That time could easily come again if the unions become weakened.
Legal help: If you need legal help, your union is there, whether the problem’s large or small. And all for FREE.
Advice: The unions’ helplines are there to help with all work-related queries. They are free and only one call away.
Death Benefit: When an NZEI union member dies, the family gets a lump sum from the union. Other unions may also do this – it’s worth checking.
Annual Conference: Amazing speakers, brilliant networking, loads of professional development and sharing, and all paid for by the union. Flights, mileage, accommodation and food. Again, ask your local branch if you want to go. Last year was my first one and it was well worth going.
I get that there are frustrations – I’ve had my own gripes – but here’s the thing; the union is only as good as its members. If something’s not working for you, tell them.
If we want the union to be strong, we must add our own strengths to it. In much the same way that teachers cannot tip information into a student’s head and make them learn, the union cannot help a member who doesn’t participate.
Or, to butcher an idiom, they can lead us horses to water and even ensure it’s drinkable, but we still have to tilt our own heads down and slurp.
Read the emails, go to meetings, pick up the pamphlets on the staff room coffee table.
Trust me, it is worth it.
NZ Union websites:
E tū: http://www.etu.nz/
Here are just some of the things causing concern across the sector:
The list goes on.
Join Your Union
Being in the union starts as low as $2.29 per fortnight, and those on temporary leave from the sector for whatever reason can take our honourary membership at a lower cost still.
Our unions are working on these issues constantly. It is worth being in the union to support that work and to have a voice in the union’s stance.
Being a union member gives you help when you need it most, whether that’s advice on your contract, help dealing with a work dispute, access to a lawyer for personal issues, ongoing professional development, or professional networks.
PPTA also has the membership assistance fund, which offers loans to help those who are in need of short-term financial help.
In many ways, union membership is like insurance – you don’t realise how valuable it is until you need it and it isn’t there.
Together we are stronger.
Please pass this info to new teachers or anyone who may not yet be a member.
NOTE: This post was not paid for or sponsored or prompted by any union.
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 2 per cent increase in the school operations grant after taking inflation into account, the needs of present-day education, and the increase in immigration, is actually a cut; the small allocations for the ‘Reading Together’ programme and digital literacy (a little over $4 million altogether) are miniscule in scope though well directed; and the small increase for support teachers pathetic.
As we know the $359 million for the cluster programme (for secondary and primary and over four years) will do nothing for children, indeed it will represent if it occurs, a plunge to an education cataclysm. The budget also points to a possibly less than 1 per cent rise in salaries for teachers – compare that to the wrongness of the salaries for expert teachers.
Yesterday on Q+A, Hekia Parata deftly implied that the teacher unions and, by implication, the teachers, are totally on board with performance pay. Not just on board, but helping sort out how it will go ahead.
Some of us suspected this was smoke and mirrors, the ole Hekia misdirection that we are so familiar with. So I did what any sensible person should. I asked the unions themselves. And the opposition parties, too. I asked them, “Are you in favour of performance pay for teachers?”
Here are the responses I have had so far, and the tell quite a different story to Hekia’s:
PPTA referred a member to this document and also Tweeted me via PPTAWeb to say:
PPTA do not support performance pay.
NZEI have not sent an official response, but individual reps responded to say:
NZEI does not support competition between schools or teachers. PUM’s are being held in the next couple of weeks. Expect a statement AFTER members have BEEN consulted.
Metiria Turei of the Green Party messaged me to state:
We are opposed to performance pay. All teachers should be priority rewarded for their skills and experience.
Chris Hipkins (Labour) Tweeted me to confirm:
Labour does not support basing teacher pay on student achievement. It’s no measure of ‘performance’
Chris Hipkins replied in more detail to my query on Facebook:
Labour is opposed to paying teachers based on student achievement, which is no true measure of ‘performance’. I object to the whole term ‘performance pay’ because it inevitably leads to pointless arguments about how to tell a good teacher from a poor one, when really we should be focused on how we support all teachers to be great teachers (quality professional development, great initial teacher training, better appraisal systems etc).
No word yet from NZPF. I will update you as soon as I hear from them.
Meanwhile, make sure your union rep, your MP, your principal, and your local newspaper all know that teachers do not want performance pay because it adversely affects their performance and will therefore be TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE STUDENTS.
During Hekia Parata’s interview on Q+A today, Corrin Dann asks “Will National go to a full performance pay scheme in the future?”
Hekia answers (at 11.12 of video) “We already have very strong consensus from the teacher unions as well as the profession, they are on the working group, recommending the design features for this. We are very focussed on getting this implemented from 2015 and fully implemented by 2017″
Is she refusing to answer the question posted there, and actually continuing to talk about the new ‘super’ roles, or did she really just imply the unions are on board with performance pay? Because those are two very different things.
So, because she wasn’t clear, I need to check…
Because there is a loud voice from teachers that they do NOT want this. And with good reason backed by much research.
Is Hekia avoiding, evading, stretching facts, fibbing, or telling the truth?
We really do need to know.
Are teachers just too worn out teaching to get into the battle to save public education?
Is there just so much being thrown at the sector right now that people don’t know what to tackle first?
Is it that people care but haven’t got the oomph?
Or do they just not care?
Are the unions doing enough to talk to us?
Should the unions’ leadership be doing more to lead us?
Maybe many teachers don’t understand what is going on, regarding world-wide education reforms (deforms)?
I really don’t know.
But I do know we have to galvanise and stand up for ourselves before it’s too late.
So what should we do?
Kelvin Smythe once more hits the nail on the head, identifying that these latest proposals aim to bring in both performance pay and the entrenching of National Standards within NZ education. If those getting the extra pay do not jump on the National Standards bandwagon and promote it to others, they can say goodbye to the role and the money, and a more compliant puppet will be brought in.
Here are Kelvin’s observations:
“Because the education system is hierarchical, narrow, standardised, autocratic, and fearful – the new proposals will yield meagre gains. The proposals, if implemented within this education straitjacket, will have the appearance of a system suffering from ADHD.
The suggested proposals, because of the difference in the way secondary school knowledge is developed, structured, and presented will work somewhat less harmfully for secondary than for primary.
The proposals are a move by the government to buy its way to an extreme neoliberal and managerialist future for education – one part of these proposals is performance pay, the other, and associated, is a managerialist, bureaucratic restructuring:
There is performance pay to develop a cash nexus as central to education system functioning.
There is performance pay to divide NZEI and eventually destroy it (as we know the organisation), NZPF also.
There is performance pay and the wider proposals to divide NZEI from PPTA (PPTA is dithering).
The information I have is that there will be some obfuscation about the role of national standards but in practice performance pay will, indeed, be based on them.
There is making permanent the national standards curriculum by selecting expert and merit teachers on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to a narrow version of mathematics, reading, and writing and their willingness to promote it.
The proposals are intended to set up an extreme neoliberal and managerialist education system:
The executive principal for the cluster system will usually be a secondary principal, if one is not available, a primary school principal friend of the government will be employed.
This cluster structure will form the basis for the ‘rationalisation’ of schools when that process is decided for the cluster area.
The executive principal will be a part of a bureaucratic extension upward to the local ministry and education review offices then to their head offices, and downward to clusters, individual schools, and classroom teachers.
This executive principal will have the ultimate power in deciding expert and lead appointments.”
Read the rest of Kelvin’s insightful piece here.
This is no way to run education. If we treat the system and those within it this way, what on earth does it tell our students? That what matters in bowing down to money even when you know it’s wrong? That it’s okay to leave behind all that your expertise tells you, so long as you’re okay? That it’s every man for himself? What great lessons for life they are. Not.
We must insist our unions tread very carefully here, and not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold.