New Zealand schools hit by ‘mega-strike’ as 50,000 teachers walk out; ‘Overwhelmed’ staff are demanding more pay, more respect and better conditions

Thousands of teachers, parents and schoolchildren march up Queen Street as they protest in Auckland, New Zealand.

Thousands of teachers, parents and schoolchildren march up Queen Street as they protest in Auckland, New Zealand. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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More than 50,000 primary and high school teachers have gone on strike in the biggest industrial action ever seen in New Zealand’s schools.

Since a Labour coalition government took power in late 2017, teachers have held three strikes calling for pay rises, better working conditions and more respect for their profession.

But Wednesday’s one-day strike is the first time primary and high school teachers have united in action, dubbing Wednesday’s protest a “mega-strike”.

The protesters have so far turned down three pay rise offers from the government of 3%, and say they want 15% or more to continue their work. But the government says it has no more money to give.

Khali Oliveira, a primary teacher at Gladstone primary in Auckland, said the strike was a last resort. Oliveira has been a teacher for more than 20 years and said burnout was becoming common-place. If the teachers’ demands were not met she would be forced to quit and work in the private sector.

“We don’t take striking lightly,” Oliveira said.

“Teachers are overwhelmed and we don’t have time to teach. That is a huge struggle. And there is a huge crisis in New Zealand in terms of a teacher shortage. We want the government to invest in the future of teachers and the country’s children – we’re sick of Band-Aid solutions.”

More than 700,000 children have been affected by the strike, with many parents forced to take time off work, or take children to work with them. Some local recreation spaces such as libraries and swimming pools were running programmes for children while others were joining their parents in the protests….”

Thousands protest against teacher pay and conditions in New Zealand.

Thousands protest against teacher pay and conditions in New Zealand. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

 

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