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Renegotiation of Primary Teachers and Principals Collective Agreements


To outline to boards the process for negotiations that will occur over the next few months for primary teachers and principals terms and conditions of employment and how boards provide input into those negotiations. Included are some background material and information for boards that will assist in understanding the process of those negotiations and how NZSTA represents your views and interests. 


These agreements were last negotiated in 2010, and their current term will expire on 15 August 2012. The priorities last time from the employer perspective were to seek outcomes consistent with delivering ongoing improvements in education and a collective agreement which support boards and principals to provide quality education.  What was also emphasised was the need to address professional matters away from the employment environment. Another key feature was no backdating of any of the settlements was strictly adhered to, which meant it was some time after the expiry of the settlement to be applied.

What's the Process? 

Boards are the day to day employer of staff, and also employ a number from their funds, but when negotiations for a collective agreement occur the Secretary for Education (under delegation from the State Services Commissioner) assumes the role of employer and negotiates on behalf of government and boards. The NZEI, as the union representing primary teachers, will prepare a number of claims which are considered by its members.  They then formally lodged claims with the Secretary for Education (usually before the expiry of the collective agreement. 

The Secretary must conduct these negotiations in consultation with NZSTA as the organization representing the employers (boards). NZSTA provides the Secretary with feedback on employer and union claims before the Ministry finalizing its bargaining position. The NZSTA also attends the negotiations to provide input as necessary.

Negotiation is not a one-way street 

As part of the preparation for the actual bargaining, the Secretary determines the Ministry's position, which takes into account the governments expectations. In the context of that process, the Secretary seeks NZSTA views on behalf of boards. Once we receive the union's claims and arguments behind them, we will advise boards.

Board Feedback 

It is not just about responding to union claims. We also seek any particular matters which boards require attention during the process (i.e. board claims). For instance, there may be parts of the employment agreements which have proven to be a problem regarding interpretation/application or there may be matters which you consider need consideration. This is your opportunity to raise such issues. You may want to discuss this with previous board representatives to see if anything arose with the previous board. 

Obviously about teachers the principal will have the operational and professional knowledge and in fact provide a significant amount of any feedback on the boards' behalf.

We also utilise the experience gained by your NZSTA advisers on issues that they have had to deal with during the term of the agreements.

There will also be a number of "technical claims" which will be raised prior and during the negotiations where minor matters of clarification or ease of interpretation will be dealt with. Again if it is of significance, then we will advise you at the time. 

There may be matters which are specific to particularly types of schools or locations, and we will deal with these issues directly with the boards involved.

Operating in "Good Faith." 

The Employment Relations Act 2000 requires that during bargaining the parties must act in good faith, part of which requires that neither party will seek to undermine their authorized representatives during the bargaining by communicating directly on matters arising in the negotiations. NZSTA, as a party present at the negotiations, also operates under those ground rules. For this part of the process, we sign with the union and ministry a Bargaining Process Agreement (PBA).

Potential Conflict of Interest

Boards of trustees are in a somewhat unique situation, while being the "employer" they also contain trustees who are employees (principal and staff representative) and therefore how we gain the feedback and communicate matters requires some care if we are to avoid breaching the good faith requirements. For that reason, we mark these communications as "confidential".

Potential for conflict of interest can arise where the employee is also the "employer" and has a "pecuniary" interest in any decision of the board. 

8) Subject to subclause (11), a trustee who has a pecuniary interest in any matter or any interest that may reasonably be regarded as likely to influence a trustee in carrying out his or her duties and responsibilities as a trustee shall be excluded from any meeting of the board while it discusses, considers, considers anything relating to, or decides, the matter.

(9) Subject to subclause (11), a trustee who is a member of the board staff shall be excluded from any meeting of the board while it discusses, considers, considers anything relating to, or decides, any matter relating to the trustee's employment by the board, or to the course of action to be taken following the hearing of a complaint against the trustee (being a complaint against the trustee in the trustee's capacity as a member of the board staff).

For that reason, we operate through the board chair and principal in these situations (other than where we are dealing with matters affecting the principal's employment conditions when matters are communicated via the chair). 

This does not preclude discussing these matters with the board in general but in this instance does preclude a teacher or principal who is also a trustee from participating in those discussions and any decisions relating to the bargaining of their specific terms and conditions. 

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