Monday, May 13, 2019

Teachers have had enough

So, its on. On May 29, the day before Labour's "wellbeing budget", the centrepiece of its political year when it tries to send a good news message about what its doing, the teachers are going on strike. They've been overworked and underpaid for years, watching their salaries decline relative to everyone else, while successive governments have cynically relied on their goodwill to keep them working. That goodwill now seems to have run out. And so they're not just promising a one-day strike later in the month, but five weeks of rolling stoppages after that. Which is going to cause huge disruption - and that's the point. If people don't want their lives to be disrupted by this, then the government needs to pay up.

What they want is better pay, commensurate with their qualifications, and more time for admin and professional development, which will in turn leave them free to teach. But beyond that, they want a career path which actually appeals to people, rather than one which starts off by paying below the median wage for too much work, and just gets worse.

The government says they have no more money, and that they have other spending priorities. Well, they need to change those priorities then. They also say the teachers' pay demands are unjustified. I think that's for teachers to decide. They know what their profession needs and what it is worth far better than some arsehole in the Beehive on a $280,000 salary. Meanwhile, we're treated to the sight of a Labour government and its hacks hating on striking workers, sounding and acting just like any other boss. Which is a perfect example of how Labour's tribalism trumps their supposed values any day of the week.

Teachers do not strike on a whim. Unlike politicians, they are professionals who take their jobs seriously. They've been driven to this by years of mistreatment, and they are angry. That anger is not going to go away just because Chris Hipkins stamps his foot and demands they fall in line like good serfs. What will make it go away is a credible offer which meets their demands in the long-term. If the government doesn't want its entire political year fucked up, they need to make that offer. Its that simple.