A PPTA meeting in mid-2019, at which teachers were contemplating further strike action (Radio NZ / Eva Corlett)

The Bulletin: Teachers call mega-strike for day before Budget

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Every teacher in the country to strike together, concerns over funding-starved Māori sector, and two big stories on the rubbish beat from the weekend.

The timing couldn’t be more stark. The day before the government delivers their first ‘wellbeing budget’, every primary and secondary school teacher in the country will be on strikeNewshub reports that voting among both unions has approved the joint strike action, set down for May 29. It will be the biggest day of industrial action for education in New Zealand’s history, with almost 50,000 people involved. A short cheat sheet of the most important details of the announcement can be found here.

Education minister Chris Hipkins has again reacted with disappointment. Radio NZ reports that he has described the strike as “unjustified”, given the offer his government has put on the table. He says it’s the best teachers have seen in a decade, and that there’s no more money that can go towards it. It’s also an offer (for primary teachers at least) that was deemed fair by the Employment Relations Authority.

The ‘wellbeing budget’ part is interesting because both sides are trying to invoke that mantle. Teachers have consistently argued that the pay and working conditions that they’ve been operating under are leading to burnout, good teachers leaving the industry, and hardship in keeping up with the cost of living. They also say their wellbeing won’t be improved by what is being offered. Teacher Lisa Geraghty set out why she voted in this latest ballot in the way that she did on The Spinoff.

But on the other hand, Mr Hipkins argues that the nature of this upcoming budget is that there are a lot of areas getting big investments, including the likes of mental health and housing, and the government needs money to address that. And it’s not exactly striking a blow for worker solidarity, but Mr Hipkins adds that teachers are already getting a better pay rise offer than most other workers will be in line for – that comes from his comments reported in Radio NZ’s news bulletins this morning.

This current strike will take place right in the middle of term two, so there’s no concerns yet about exam disruption. But for the Ministry of Education, it will be a worrying sign that the industrial action that started last year isn’t going away. And for the government, the timing is horrible. It’s the time of the political year when governments look to keep a tight control over the narrative. Almost every year, there’s a flurry of spending announcements around this time, to create an impression of gainful activity going on.

But this strike stomps right through the middle of all of that. And everyone knows it’s likely a lot of parents out there will be more worried about what they’re going to do with their kids on a Wednesday, than what is coming out of the Beehive. It’s a significant escalation in the long-running campaign, and shows teachers are unimpressed by one such commitment – the recent announcement that thousands of new teacher trainee places will be created.


The Māori Affairs select committee is raising the alarm about a range of Māori organisations being on the brink with funding concerns, reports Māui St. They range from media organisations, to land management organisations, to Te Puni Kōkiri. There has been something of a trend under this government for funding to be used for universal measures, rather than targeted towards specific Māori-focused measures. Keep an eye on this area ahead of the Budget.


Two big stories in the past few days on the rubbish beat, which as regular readers will know is a favourite of mine. Radio NZ reports a range of recommendations on recycling and combatting waste from a task force have been adopted by environment minister Eugenie Sage. There’s a full list in the article, but suffice to say, pretty much all of the recommendations are prefaced by a word like “reviewing” or “assessing” or “examining.” National’s Scott Simpson has a word for it too – “eco-babble” – and says there’s nothing new and tangible in what has been adopted.

Meanwhile, a deal has been signed by most countries around the world to restrict the amount of plastic waste being sent to poor countries, reports the Guardian. It comes after increasingly urgent concern from those poorer countries that they’re effectively being turned into the first world’s dump. Countries will now have to monitor where plastic waste goes when it has left their borders, and the agreement is legally binding.


The government is making a significant new investment in tackling chronic homelessness, reports the NZ Herald. Over four years, almost $200 million will be spent on a big increase in the number of places available through the Housing First programme. PM Ardern says it’s a reflection of homelessness being at the sharp end of the housing crisis, and says the government is on track to meet public housing targets.


Can MBIE properly regulate the oil industry when their staff have such close connections to it? That’s a question raised in this report from Newsroom‘s Thomas Coughlan this morning. Out of nine MBIE staffers in the division to regulate the petrol industry, five have real or perceived conflicts of interest. Green MP Gareth Hughes says it’s a revolving door between industry and government, and the division has previously been accused of being biased towards the industry. In contrast, MBIE says it’s important to have staff with direct knowledge of the industries they are regulating.


Wellington mayor Justin Lester has formally announced he’ll be running for a second term, reports Radio NZ. So far he’s the only official candidate in the race. He’s promising to try and end homelessness in the city, remove priavte cars from the Golden Mile, and provide a boost to former refugees settling in the city.


I link to Politik a lot, and today’s update is a tremendous example of why the editor Richard Harman is so good at what he does. He’s been on the National party regional conference circuit and has uncovered a pretty significant story – party member representatives have reportedly saved Simon Bridges’ leadership from disgruntled MPs for now. And while members don’t get to directly vote on who the leader should be, they are still influential, and they don’t like the idea of any disunity at the top.


If you live in Timaru, I want you to go and grab a nice glass of tap water and really savour it right now. Newstalk ZB reports the town has been crowned as the place with the best tasting tap water in the country. And really, let’s all just take a moment to appreciate how incredibly lucky we are to live in a country where great tasting water is just piped straight into your house. In my opinion, that’s a really under-appreciated marvel.


From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Today it’s going to be split up into two sections – politics and arts. Politics first: Finance minister Grant Robertson sat down with business editor Maria Slade, to explain exactly what a wellbeing budget is. We’ve republished a fascinating excerpt from Marilyn Waring’s latest book, where she recounts how she came to be a National MP in her early 20s. And Lewis Holden argues it’s time to officially change the name of the country to Aotearoa New Zealand.

And then to the arts: Ben Lynch explores Wellington’s vibrant death metal scene (and other associated genres.) Sam Brooks questions whether Game of Thrones really has any point beyond heaping misery on characters. And Tim Batt, chat show host, gives his list of the best ever chat show hosting duos.


Today’s feature is one that I found quite troubling to read, but deeply informative as well. Writing on Aeon, sociologist Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick set out to look at why modern slavery persists – by asking the slaveholders themselves. What follows gives a whole new meaning to the banality of evil – as Choi-Fitzpatrick observes, “they are rarely monsters.” But to hold a human being in bonded servitude is undoubtedly a monstrous thing to do. Here’s an excerpt from this complex and compelling piece.

Despite the abuse, the caste-based worldview frames these exploitative labour relations in familial terms. ‘You have to understand the mentality of labourers, and you should know how to make them work,’ says Aanan, who views himself as the caring parent and his workers as children. ‘To manage a group of labourers is like managing a group of primary-school children. They have to be provided with food or clothes, and they are taught how to behave … sometimes they start drinking alcohol; sometimes they indulge in feasts. So we have to pay them with caution. We divide them into small groups because larger numbers of workers tend to form a union and sometimes engage in mass holidays or strikes.’

Aanan says the happiness of his worker is paramount, even though his business model depends on entrapping the vulnerable and working them to the bone as they crush rock from dusk to dawn. He couldn’t come out and say this to me or to his workers – or perhaps even to himself.


The English Premier League race has gone to the final day, and Manchester City have grabbed the title. It’s their 4th Premier League win this decade, and they could do a double if they win the FA Cup final. But it’s heartbreaking for Liverpool, who came within just two points of winning their first league title since 1990.

In the IPL, New Zealander Mitchell McClenaghan has delivered four tidy overs to help the Mumbai Indians beat the Chennai Super Kings in the grand final. The coaching staffs of both teams had a strong NZ presence too – Shane Bond is Mumbai’s bowling coach, and Stephen Fleming is the coach of CSK. A range of players who will feature at the upcoming World Cup featured in the final moments of the game, including Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga who delivered a perfect final over to seal the match for Mumbai.

Finally, best of luck to the Portland Trailblazers this morning in their NBA Western Conference semifinal. They’ve gone to the 7th game in a series against the Denver Nuggets, for the right to try and take down the Golden State Warriors. And our esteemed boss Duncan Greive is heading into work late today so he can watch the Blazers at home, so frankly they’d better get the win.


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