5 Dec 2012

Teachers to strike over Christchurch school plans

10:56 pm on 5 December 2012

Up to 1000 Christchurch teachers have voted to hold an unlawful strike in February in response to the Government's proposed shake-up of the region's education system.

Teachers and school representatives from about 100 Canterbury schools packed out a union-organised meeting in Christchurch on Wednesday afternoon to express their anger and disappointment at the plan to close, move or merge 36 schools.

A strike is only legal if there has been a breakdown in collective bargaining, or for health and safety reasons.

But NZEI members say they are concerned at a lack of any real consultation and an unrealistic timeframe imposed on schools to respond.

Ian Leckie, president of the teachers' union, the NZEI, says the Government needs to reconsider its position if it wants to stop the strike from going ahead on 19 February.

"They would need to say, 'We're going to start this process again, we're going to elongate it, we're going to do it properly, we're going to include the people that need to be included in this decision and we'll still undertake the educational change that needs to occur in Christchurch in a far more consultative and engaging way'".

Mr Leckie told teachers at the meeting that the Government is using the recent devastating earthquakes as an excuse for radical reform.

He says the Government needs to know it is not acceptable to use Christchurch children as guinea-pigs for an education agenda it intends to roll out across New Zealand.

Mr Leckie says the reforms are preoccupied with buildings and plant - not with what is best for the children.

Hundreds of teachers and school representatives attended the meeting.

Hundreds of teachers and school representatives attended the meeting. Photo: RNZ