Not All Teachers Are Cardy Wearing Lefties

I am a teacher. I know that we do not get a lot of love on Whaleoil but not all teachers are cardy wearing lefties who want to see everyone hold hands and sing kumbaya. In fact, some of us are quite conservative in our politics and as such read Whaleoil regularly and comment on occasion. As a political conservative, I can not in good conscience join a union where some of my fees would go towards supporting the Labour party.

The proposed settlement has different offers for union and non-union teachers – members of the PPTA receive a $1500 payment and will receive their new salary from 1 July 2019. Non-members will not get the $1500 and their new salary will not begin until 1 October. There has been very little comment or debate about this by the media. I can see some justification for the $1500 payment and understand why the PPTA would feel justified in this. The payment would go some way towards reimbursing the union members’ union fees and loss of income from the strike day. I can see no justification for the three month gap between teachers receiving their pay rise.

I see that in today’s Dominion Post there is an article suggesting that non-union teachers should pay a fee to the union if they ‘want’ to take the union negotiated agreement. While that sounds fair in theory, I’m not totally convinced by that idea either. Back in the 1990s when there was a proposal to bulk fund teacher salaries, there was a strong push back from the PPTA over the potential for this to lead to unfair or unequal outcomes for teachers. If memory serves, some of the specific concerns were that teachers would end up being paid different amounts for doing the same job and that it would pit ‘teacher against teacher’ and discourage collaborative practise. This effectively blocked non-union teachers from having a voice in any negotiations around pay and conditions as the collective agreement became the default for everyone. The PPTA, having forced all teachers to be on the collective agreement, now want to charge me for the privilege.

It also seems to me that a double standard is applying with this proposed pay settlement. It is now ok for one teacher to be paid more than another for the same job based on membership of a union. Furthermore, it is pitting teacher against teacher as there is resentment being bred in non-union teachers.

The proposed pay settlement contravenes New Zealand employment law (at least my non-lawyer understanding of it). Below is an extract from MBIE website regarding trade unions.

A contract, agreement or other arrangement can’t:

• require anyone to be or not to be a union member or a member of a particular union
• give a person, just because they are or aren’t a union member or a member of a particular union, any preference:

• for getting or keeping employment,
• relating to terms or conditions of employment,
• for benefits, or
• for opportunities for training, promotion or transfer.

Clearly, union members are getting a preference over non-union members relating to terms or conditions of their employment. Again, this would be a massive double standard from the union to accept this, as if the boot were on the other foot – if an employer was offering better conditions to non-union members – there would be no doubt that the unions would protest vigorously. I’d love to hear from anyone with employment law expertise about whether this would be legal.

This action reinforces my belief that I have no wish to be part of a union in general and the PPTA in particular. I am going to attempt to negotiate a revised individual contract with my employer; however, they can not go outside the PPTA collective agreement – a catch-22 situation.