Teachers strike for better wages and working conditions


Teachers strike for first time in more than 20 years

On 15th August 2018, almost 30,000 primary school teachers went on strike, across the country for the first time in more than 20 years. The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), the union that represents teachers, said it has asked for a 16 percent pay rise for teachers over two years, whereas the government has offered between 6.1 and 14.7 percent, depending on experience, over three years. The teachers are also striking over large class sizes, a teacher shortage and excessive administration requirements.

Louise Green, lead negotiator at NZEI said:

"Teachers and principals voted for a full day strike...to send a strong message to the Government that the current collective agreement offers from the Ministry of Education would not fix the crisis in teaching.”

Rallies were organised in every major town in New Zealand. The number of teachers rallying included 10,000 in Auckland, 5,000 in Wellington and 3,000 teachers in Christchurch. After the rally a crowd of about 4,000 marched to Parliament grounds, where they were met by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Education Minister Chris Hipkins and other ministers.

A revised offer was made on 11th September but members of the NZEI chose to reject the Ministry of Education's latest pay offers raising the possibility of fresh strike action.

Statue to be removed after Maori protests

According to reports, on 3rd October 2018, a statue of Captain Cook, long opposed by local indigenous Maori, will be taken down before the 250th anniversary of his arrival to the country in 2019.

The bronze monument has faced opposition and vandalism since its unveiling in 1969 but increased opposition to it since 2016 has restarted debate about its place in the region's history. The statue which overlooks the beach at which Cook took his first steps on New Zealand soil in 1769, is also on an ancestral mountain of the area's Ngati Oneone tribe. Ngati Oneon believe that the statue was not a balanced depiction of the area's history.

In early October 2018, a committee voted to move the statue to the Tairawhiti Museum before the anniversary as part of a revamp of the area. Renaming the plaza has been discussed and replacing the statue with one of Maori chief Raikaitane had also been raised.

Peaceful Assembly

Police arrest anti-mining protesters at Karangahake Gorge

On 15th September 2018, police arrested protesters, including a former Green MP, campaigning against gold mining on conservation land in the Coromandel.

Twelve members of anti-mining group Protect Karangahake were occupying a New Talisman Gold Mine site in Karangahake, when police and mining security arrived. The police ordered that protesters to remove their tents and end their demonstration. Five people were then arrested at the site for trespassing and were later released at the Paeroa police station, after receiving a pre-charge warning.

Group spokesman Duncan Shearer said:

"We're here today to make a stand for the conservation estate…if that means we're arrested then we hope it raises awareness of this issue."

The occupation was also to highlight a contradiction in the government's policy that allows “destructive industrialisation of land" set aside for conservation purposes. In 2017, representatives from the Greens and Labour party accepted a petition, calling for the area to be brought under Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act, which protects specific conservation land from any open cast or underground mining with significant surface operations.

Polish president faces protest 

On 23rd August 2018, members of Wellington's Polish community protested against the Polish far-right president and his government's policies, on his visit to the country. The protesters wore t-shirts with the word 'constitution' written in Polish and holding white roses. One Polish protester, Marta Edgecombe, said Polish people feared democracy was being threatened and their rights degraded.

President Andrzej Duda's populist government has recently drawn criticism from the European Union and the Polish community for forcing 73 judges to retire early and failing in its asylum seeker obligations. In July 2018, thousands rallied in central Warsaw after Duda granted the nationalist government more power over court appointments.