A Wairarapa school teacher was shocked by her local MP’s suggestion to “look elsewhere” if she didn’t like her employment circumstances.
Greytown primary school teacher Alex Southall wrote to Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott of the National Party saying it was time for action over teachers’ pay and conditions.
“I was shocked by that response. I was like ‘Wow, if that’s how valued we really are, that’s so sad’,” Southall said.
Scott told Southall although he supported increased wages for teachers he believed teachers should find another job if they were not happy.
“When an employee feels undervalued I always encourage them to look elsewhere for opportunities. There is a lot of work to be done and always opportunities.”
He compared this market approach to the way he runs his business, a Masterton-based winery.
“For any employer-employee relationship to be successful, both parties need to be mutually respectful of each other. Treat each other reasonably and pay a fair wage.
“That’s what I do at the winery. If people are not happy with the way I treat them as an employer then I would expect them to talk to me, and then if they are still unhappy, I would expect them to leave.”
Southall said the situation with New Zealand’s teachers was different and that the Government should offer better conditions for its school staff.
She wondered what Scott thought would happen if teachers left the public system en masse.
“Who’s going to teach your kids if I do up and leave?”
“I know that I am a good teacher and kids need good teachers in front of them. No-one’s going to be stepping up and filling that role if we do leave,” she said.
“Once we’re here, we don’t last so long. I’ve got so many friends who have said ‘no, why should I be sticking it out with all these terrible conditions and pay and feeling undervalued?’.”
Southall, 26, was the senior syndicate leader at Greytown School and complains that she is sometimes working until 10pm to get her planning work done.
School teachers and principals across the country plan to stage New Zealand’s largest-ever strike later this month as negotiations with the Ministry of Education stalled.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said Alistair Scott’s response speaks volumes about the National Party’s attitude towards the teaching profession.
“His party, spent nine years while they were in Government undervaluing and undermining the role of teachers and schools.
“They are now trying to rebrand themselves as a party that supports teachers and principals, but scratch below the surface and you’ll see that it’s the same old National Party.”
He said the Government’s current offer to primary and secondary teachers was the largest pay offer they have received in over a decade.
“The offer demonstrates our commitment to reward and value teachers, while balancing other priorities including mental health, tackling the housing crisis and lifting kids out of poverty,” Hipkins said.