New Zealand primary school teachers are confident that they are on target to achieve pay parity with secondary teachers, as they resumed formal pay talks with the State Services Commission last week.
The teachers have already gone on strike twice in support of their claim for parity, but the union, the NZEI, last month deferred plans for further industrial action. The concession came after the government gave a commitment to introducing an integrated teaching service and a unified pay scale, and said it would leave its NZ$90 million (Pounds 37.5m) pay offer on the table.
The NZEI had held firm in its call for parity with secondary teachers for the same qualifications, duties and experience, and for the maintenance of collective, rather than individual, contracts for principals and other senior staff. It wants any new contract to expire in 1997, with the pay increase phased in over that period.
Though the government's most recent NZ$90 million offer, made at the end of 1994, was a good deal for basic-scale teachers, it offered little for principals. Nor did it give any assurances that the parity gains would remain over time.
Despite the NZEI's confidence, however, a question mark still hangs over the future of the working party which will have the task of developing a unified teaching system and pay scale.
The secondary teachers' union, the PPTA, is refusing to take part in the working party unless its own concerns, namely that secondary teachers are overworked and underpaid, are addressed. PPTA president Roger Tobin said the working party would be a "waste of time" without the PPTA, and it was "bizarre nonsense" for the NZEI to believe a unified pay scale could be achieved without PPTA involvement.