6 Dec 2012

Teachers unconcerned strike action illegal

6:37 pm on 6 December 2012

Teachers planning to strike in response to the Government's proposed shake-up of Canterbury's education system say they don't care if the industrial action early next year is unlawful.

Primary and intermediate teachers throughout Canterbury have voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking on 19 February over the proposal to close, move or merge 36 schools in the post-quake reorganisation.

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

Nicky Penney, a teacher from Branston Intermediate, says the action is too important for the education community to be worried by legalities.

Another teacher, John Leadbetter, says as far as he's concerned the illegality is just a technicality. "We're here for the kids, we're here for the community," he said.

The union-organised meeting in Christchurch on Wednesday considered three options; to strike next week, to strike in the New Year, or to take no strike action.

Glenys Palmer, deputy principal of Bamford school, was one of 183 who voted to strike next week, saying she thinks the community would support immediate action.

There were 693 votes in favour of taking industrial action and 143 against.

Ian Leckie, president of the teacher's union, the NZEI, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report the entire plan for the region's education system is flawed.

He said the plans to downsize of the workforce and closing or merging school is working on the false assumption that Christchurch is going to stay the same as it is now.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said on Thursday the action is illegal and is disappointed that teachers have taken this course of action.

"I visited 36 of the 37 schools under consultation and I know that many of the teachers were at those consultations and a number of them spoke. However, it is a matter for their boards and their principals how they ensure that everyone's kept abreast of consultation."