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On Strike Again

Entry 1222, on 2010-09-15 at 20:48:39 (Rating 4, Politics)

New Zealand teachers are on strike again, which is just typical of them. Obviously they don't take their work seriously enough and are more interested in sabotaging the government's new programs and making more money than they are are in really making education better in this country.

That's an attitude I've heard in various places and its pure garbage, of course. For a start the teachers rarely strike. This is the first one for many years. And I'm sure it's more than coincidental that it has happened while a conservative government is in power (the type of administration who are notoriously hostile to education - just look at the idiots they choose as education ministers for example).

So the claim that teachers are always on strike is clearly nonsense but what about the other common criticisms I mentioned above? Are teachers intent on sabotaging the government's innovative programs? Well yes and no. This argument gets back to the old claim that people don't like change. This is often used as an excuse to push ahead with reforms even when the people affected don't want it. It's not change as such which is the problem, it's the type of change which most governments and management want to impose on others which results in resistance.

Do you think the teachers would be complaining if the changes included much greater pay, reduced class sizes, and less administration work? I think they would be quite happy to cooperate with that kind of change but who can blame them for objecting to change where they get paid less for doing more and are inflicted with a lot of extra mindless paper work as well? Clearly it's not change which is the problem, it's the type of change which causes conflict.

So it's not that teachers automatically want to work against any new programs a conservative government introduces, it's that conservative governments tend to introduce poorly considered and ideologically driven programs which the experts (including teachers) can see won't work.

What about money? The teachers claim they are most interested in getting better educational outcomes for their students and the pay is purely secondary. In this case I think they might be being a bit disingenuous. I suspect it's the pay (and conditions) which are their prime interest. That's perfectly fair too. Why shouldn't they try to get paid fairly for an increasingly difficult and complex job? I do wish the teachers' representatives would be a bit more honest about this though because I suspect most people see through their claims that "educational outcomes" are their first priority.

The same argument applies to the medical professionals who are also currently considering strikes. It's interesting how these people are the first who are ripped off by a government like the one we have now although it has become almost to be expected given their social and economic agenda.

The government claim that they can't afford to give the teachers the rather moderate increase of 4% they are seeking but why should the teachers care about that? It's the education administrators job to find the money to pay the teachers what they are worth. If the ministry doesn't think it can afford it with their current budget then they should start doing their job and finding the money somewhere else. And the claim that they increase cannot be funded is clear nonsense anyway. As I said in a past blog entry, the government can find almost $2 billion to save a private finance company. Why can't they find enough to help something which is potentially far more important? The answer is that they can. They just don't want to.

Teachers are professionals so shouldn't they be cooperating with the management? After all, they all want what's best for the students, don't they? No, they don't. The managers want to do what their more senior management and political masters tell them because that's the easiest way for them to get paid the large salaries they get for doing basically nothing. And the teachers are interested in good education but they a have to look after themselves as well.

So the management/worker system isn't cooperative, it's adversarial. The management really are the enemy and cannot be trusted. Yes, sure, I know there are a few exceptions but that is the basic situation in most workplaces. And whether it's more professional to cooperate with the managers even when you disagree or whether it's better to do what you think is best despite instructions from above is very much open to question.

The government want New Zealanders to catch up with the better wages and conditions enjoyed in Australia. Their pure dishonesty should be very apparent when you consider they think they can achieve this through driving wages down and decreasing education standards. They either totally dishonest about that aim, or they really live in an ideological dream world, or they are truly incompetent. I'm not sure which is worse!

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Comment 1 (2832) by Anonymous on 2010-09-19 at 09:52:17:

You want to have anarchy in our schools. If there is no cooperation between elected MPs, professional management in schools and teachers that is what will happen isn't it? Are the teachers being responsible by striking?

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Comment 2 (2833) by OJB on 2010-09-19 at 17:58:41:

I think it's a false dichotomy to assume that the only two outcomes are anarchy and complete submission to the people above you in the hierarchy. In the end everyone needs to do what they think is right no matter what their managers and political masters say. The fact that teachers haven't had a strike for 8 years shows they don't take that action without severe provocation.

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