Nurses turn out to support teachers’ strike action

March 16, 2023

Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO members and staff turned out at rallies across the country in support of a nationwide teachers’ strike on Thursday.

Christchurch spinal unit enrolled nurses Debbie Handisides and Maree Hurst joined thousands of striking teachers in Victoria Square to show solidarity.

Christchurch enrolled nurses from Burwood Hospital spinal unit, Maree Hurst (left) and Debbie Handisides joined the teachers as they took strike action.

Handisides said she knew three young teachers personally, and saw how hard they worked.

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“They give so much, so many extra hours that are not recognised or funded.”

Another teacher she knew, who was 30 years old, was already questioning whether she could continue in the profession.

Hurst said there were many similarities between teaching and nursing.

“We do it because we’re passionate about people.”

Around 50,000 primary and secondary school, kindergarten and area school teachers and principals – members of NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) – voted to take strike action after rejecting offers by the Government for new collective agreements.

“The current offers from the Government don’t do enough for teachers, principals or tamariki,” said NZEI Te Riu Roa president Mark Potter.

Potter said the pay component of the offer did not meet cost-of-living increases members were facing.

Serious issues of understaffing, large pupil-to-teacher ratios, funding for pastoral care of students, and inadequate sick leave provisions for kindergarten teachers were not addressed in the offer.

“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.”

NZNO staff and members joined the teachers’ strike in solidarity.

Christchurch Hospital emergency department nurse and NZNO delegate Kez Jones joined her husband Andy, a teacher at St Bede’s College.

“I’ve come down to stand in solidarity with teachers. We’re both caring professions, we’re here for the people in our community, for their health and wellbeing, and that needs to be valued.”

Andy Jones said his daughter, in year 13, was considering careers but had ruled out teaching and nursing.

“She’s seen that they are not valued.”

Teachers at the rally welcomed the support shown by NZNO, and other unions including First Union, E Tū, the Public Service Association (PSA) and the union for senior doctors, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

Teachers’ got creative to get their message across at the strike on Thursday.

Primary school teacher Kirsty Bond said it was the first rally she had been to in her 25-year teaching career.

“I’ve always said there’s one other profession I would join on the picket line – that’s nurses.”

In Cambridge, a teacher of 30 years, who didn’t want to be named, said she was striking with her peers to help highlight how under resourced they were.
She said teachers who attended the rally would go home and do unpaid lesson planning.
Teaching and supporting students who often had complex needs was extremely difficult with the lack of teacher and pastoral resourcing, the teacher said.
“We’re not social workers, but are expected to be”.

“We go home everyday feeling like we’ve let our class down because we’re so time and resource poor”.

NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter joined members and staff at the teachers’ strike. Pictured here with the union for senior doctors (ASMS) and TEU representatives.

PPTA regional chair for Canterbury Thomas Newton said the Ministry of Education “seems to be out of touch with the workforce they are supposed to support and represent”.

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“The PPTA and the NZEI have been in negotiations for months, and neither of us have made any clear progress. It’s now time for action.”