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Striking while Labour is Govt

Opinion Piece

Last week ended on an unusual note for a Labour-led Government with it facing strikes from teachers and District Health Board-employed midwives. But its Education and Health Ministers were not the only ones ending the week with a headache.

Friday’s announcement by the secondary school teachers’ union that they would strike next year leaves the Government facing industrial action from both teachers’ unions.

Primary teachers have struck twice this year and on Friday the Post Primary Teachers’ Union, which is seeking an increase of 15 percent, rejected the Government’s offer of 3 percent a year for three years as totally inadequate.

It is one more unwelcome challenge for Education Minister Chris Hipkins, who is already faced with a teacher shortage and seeking to recruit overseas.

Also under way is a strike by DHB-employed midwives. This must be one of the most unusual strikes ever seen; the midwives will actually remain on the hospital premises so they are available for birthing or emergency requirements. But union representatives believe their actions will do enough to disrupt the DHBs and get their attention.

The army is under pressure with the start of the Operation Burnham inquiry into claims by journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, in the book Hit and Run, that the unnecessary deaths of Afghan civilians has been covered up.

The inquiry began with legal argument as the defence force’s counsel sought to have the inquiry heard behind closed doors. One of the inquiry heads Sir Terence Arnold said he was hoping a ruling on this would be available by Christmas, although it might not be.

Also a little somewhat surprisingly in the gun is All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, whose captain Kieran Read was under scrutiny last week, with some commentators calling for his removal after the loss to Ireland.

The usually calm and controlled Hansen was visibly angry in a press conference, and took the journalists who had made the suggestion thoroughly to task. But there is a feeling that changes will be needed if the All Blacks are to win the World Cup for a third successive time in Japan next year.