Media Releases

30,000 teachers to strike on 16 March

10 Mar 2023

30,000 teachers to strike on 16 March

Around 30,000 primary school teachers and principals, kindergarten teachers and area school teachers and principals have voted to take strike action on Thursday 16 March.

NZEI Te Riu Roa members last week rejected a second offer from the Ministry of Education to settle their collective agreements. Area school teachers have not yet received a second offer and have joined the strike to attempt to make progress with their negotiations.

Teachers and principals want the Government to increase staffing and funding to schools and kindergartens so that teachers can better meet the needs of children, and to improve current pay offers in order to attract and retain people in the teaching profession.

NZEI Te Riu Roa members will join PPTA secondary school teachers taking strike action next Thursday, meaning up to 50,000 teachers will be participating in industrial action next week.

“The current offers from the government don’t do enough for teachers, principals or tamariki,” said NZEI Te Riu Roa president Mark Potter. “Strike action is the last thing we want to do, but members want to send a message to the government about how serious we are about needing change.”

Potter said the pay component of the offer did not meet cost of living increases members were facing, but pay was only one part of the decision to strike. He said the current offers did little to address serious issues around funding and understaffing, ratios and sick leave.

“Of course the rising cost of living plays into this, but the bigger picture is that if we are to retain and attract quality educators we must improve work conditions in the sector.

“We all want the best for our students but without changes to the system we can’t give it to them. This affects tamariki, because teacher’s working conditions are children’s learning conditions.”


Note to editors

Member leaders from across the sector workforce are holding an open meeting to discuss the strike in Tauranga at 10.30am on Friday 10 March
at Trinity Wharf Hotel, 51 Dive Crescent, Tauranga. Media are welcome to attend. Phone the NZEI media line 04 382 2755 for details if you wish to attend or interview member leaders.

The total figure of NZEI Te Riu Roa members is around 30,000 people. This is made up of:

26,000 teachers

2,900 kindergarten teachers

1,350 area school teachers

61 area school principals

1,755 primary school principals.

The Pūaotanga Report, commissioned by NZEI TE Riu Roa in 2021 as a response to educator’s concerns, clearly outlines the issues in primary school staffing in a system that is ‘not fit for purpose’. You can read that report here:

Quotes from educators across the sector:

“I voted to go on strike because I care so much about my students. The offers we’ve received from the ministry to date have not addressed the two major issues in primary teaching: class sizes and learning support. I want these issues addressed and I’m preparted to go on strike to say so.” – Barb Curran, primary school teacher, Canterbury

“I’m going on strike as a teacher and a mother. As a teacher I’m striking because I don’t believe our needs have been met by the offer, teachers are crying out for a better work/life balance and to be recognised as the professionals that we are. As a mother, I’m striking because I want to know that my child’s teacher is going to have the support they need to manage the increasingly difficult challenges that our tamariki are coming into the classroom with.” – Maiana McCurdy, primary school teacher, Auckland

“Āe tēnā ra koutou katoa, kua rongo koutou, he porotū kei te haere, he porotū kaiako, engari he aha te tino kaupapa o te porotū nei? ko ngā tamariki mokopuna te kaupapa. Koutou katoa kaiako mā, me porotū tātou!” – Kaareen Hotereni, area school teacher, Kawerau

“Our children's education needs to be resourced properly. Currently primary school children are resourced at 30% less than secondary school children. That’s not right. Our small school principals are burning out because of the workload, having to teach and be a principal. We need to build a strong caring well looked after workforce so that we can look after your children and give them a great start to their educational career.” – Marama Stewart, primary school principal, Tāneatua

“Principals have voted to strike because we need a salary that values principals and recognises the complexities of the job we do. We need support for our wellbeing and professional growth, and we need an increase in staffing so that we can meet the needs of the students in our schools.” – Stephanie Madden, primary school principal, Dunedin

"I’m striking because the early years are the most important for our children. I’m striking because our kindergarten teachers currently don’t have enough sick leave. We know that it’s one of the highest sectors in the country to suffer from illness and that has been made worse with Covid-19. We also can’t get enough relievers to cover those absences because of the pay cap that doesn’t recognise their experience and knowledge. We are also year-round now, and we need more relievers to fill those gaps for when teachers take holidays." – Virginia Oakly, kindergarten teacher, Nelson